Durham, NC, United States | Member Since 2001
After 2009's groundbreaking The Magicians, Lev Grossman takes his "hero" Quentin on a hero's quest, by ship, magic gate, hell, and high water. Where the first book saw classroom scenes of painstaking practice and learning, here Quentin, Eliot, Janet, and Julia are the kings and queens of Fillory and have been for a good while -- long enough for boredom to set in, and Quentin realizes that he really must find something to do. That something turns out to be a tax collection at the Outer Island, setting Quentin and Julia off on a magical, poorly understood ship East into the half-charted seas. There may or may not be a magical golden key which winds the world. There may or may not be dragons. There are prices to pay. Then there is the other half of the novel. Interleaved with the story of Quentin's hero's quest are "the Julia chapters", filling in the backstory of Julia, one of Quentin's childhood friends, left behind when Quentin passed the entrance exam for Brakebills. Slowly, Julia unravels, at the same time unraveling the mystery of what happened to her, and discovering that there is a world -- an ad-hoc, more jagged-edged world -- of magic beyond Brakebills, found in basements and squatted buildings and various other safe houses. Through these compelling, moving, memorable chapters we see the price Julia had to pay for her magic, with both storylines coming together for a stunning finish and very satisfying denouement. On the narration: Once again, Bramhall brings his at-times delicate and heartbreaking, at other times sarcastic and dry, narration back to wonderful life. Particularly memorable in The Magician King is his characterization of the whiny, bookish Benedict, as well as the greater beings encountered along the way. Throughout, he builds a magical atmosphere and tone, never saccharine, maintaining the perfect knife's edge between the fragile and the real, charting well the heady waters of a truly worthy sequel to one of the new century's great fantasies.
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