I enjoyed, but didn't love the first book. I'm not sure if this book is better than the first or if I just knew what type of experience to expect from Grossman, but I enjoyed this book even more than the first.
It is a similar experience with a somewhat similar story-arc and similar lesson/internal-conflict for the main characters.
It still had some brutally painful (and in this case disturbing; warning there is a rape scene) moments. But they punctuate the story and are used very purposefully to develop the characters and explain their motivations.
I just bought the next book.
After reading "Magicians", I thought to myself, that while I did overall like the book, I would not try the second one any time soon. There was something missing from the first book - a narrative or a sense of direction perhaps. I was afraid that the sequel would be same.
But it still nagged at me and I finally caved in and read this one.
I am glad I did. This book had a nice story arc (two actually) and a slew of interesting characters. Sure, it builds strongly on the first book-- in fact so much so that the two almost feel like one book.
There was too much whiny Julia. She didn't become even marginally likeable until 3/4 into the book. I was a little disappointed that this story didn't measure up to "The Magicians," but it did have incredibly large shoes to fill. Still a great book and for the most part, I enjoyed it.
The story was quite different. It was very good for a second book in a trilogy. I was satisfied with the end. But due to a few unexplained choices I can't quite give it 5 stars.
Not a good sequel. Not a good ending at all. Hope the third book will be better. I don't think I'll be reading anymore books by Mr. Grossman. He stole Narnia in this series and destroyed it. Not very original or clever. I'm surprised this got published to be honest. I've read A LOT of fantasy and this is by far the worst in my 40 years of reading.
This series really hold up to as many revisits as you care to make. I've been through it several times now and have always been amazed by it, finding new things in it each time through. Mark Bramhall's performance is masterful. I've no doubt I'll be making another visit to Fillory!