Return to Fillory in the riveting sequel to The New York Times best-seller and literary phenomenon of 2009: The Magicians.
The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.
Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.
The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis and at the cutting edge of literary fantasy.
©2011 Lev Grossman (P)2011 Penguin Audio
"[A] serious, heartfelt novel [that] turns the machinery of fantasy inside out." (The New York Times Editor's Choice)
"The Magician King is a rare achievement, a book that simultaneously criticizes and celebrates our deep desire for fantasy." (The Boston Globe)
"Grossman has devised an enchanted milieu brimming with possibility, and his sly authorial voice gives it a literary lift that positions The Magician King well above the standard fantasy fare." (The New Yorker)
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
As much as I enjoy books stealing ideas and remaking stories (like Fuzzy Nation or Orson Scott Card's Enchanted), Lev Grossman has soured me on the concept for a while.
I was not a big fan of the first book of this series, The Magicians. I thought it was really well written and had some great ideas. But I just did not like the characters. But I still wanted to read the second book. It was written so well, I figured the second would have to be better.
After having read it, I think this opening line from an Amazon review gets it exactly right. "Joyless, dismal, and cynically nihilistic--that was the first novel in this series."
This book I think is just as well written, but even more cynical. The characters have not learned anything. At least in the first book they were teens and might have some justification for being self centered. Now they are older. They are kings and queens in a Narnia like world where they have everything they could ever want. The economy is magical so everyone is prosperous. There is very little fighting or disagreement. And there is even the occasional quest to go on.
But Quentin, the main character, is never happy. In the last book he found everything he wanted, he was a magician, he had a wonderful girlfriend, he could get anything he wanted and he even found a way to Fillory, the setting of the series of magical books that he loved as a child. And he threw it all away because he thought that the next thing might make him happier. And it didn't. No surprise there.
In this book he is doing the same thing. He has everything he could ever want, but it is not enough. So he keeps risking things to get more. And nothing is ever satisfying for him.
The best part of the book was that it spent a lot of time on Julia's back story. Julia joined the last book right at the end. She was a childhood friend of Quentin's but she did not get into the magical school and instead learned magic on her own.
Hers is a story of depression, addiction, rejection of her family and pursuit of a goal as if nothing (including herself) matters. It is one of the better written portrayals of depression that I have read. But because it is Grossman, the story is cynical and lacks all hope.
Even the fantasy elements seemed missing in this book. There are lot of actions, like a war that includes dragons, but so much happens off the page. There is a quest (pretty much exactly like the Voyage of the Dawn Treader) but much of it happens while Quentin is gone and is dismissed in a couple of sentences. These powerful magicians seem to have almost forgotten that they can do magic in most of the book.
There is clearly a third book on the way because this book ended on a cliff hangers. But I would advice most people to just skip these first two books. There is so little redeeming value in them that if you have not started I would say don't. If you have read the first one, wait until the third one is out to see if it is any good before reading the second.
I also want to note that this book continues to be full of language, sex and a lot of drinking. There is also one graphic rape scene that came out of no where and I though added nothing to the story. This is just a book I would encourage most people to stay away from.
Like its predecessor, The Magician King follows Quentin Coldwater, now King of the fantastical land of Fillory, as he deals with the existential struggles of being a powerful wizard with a real personality. Subverting your expectations appears to be a favorite pastime of Grossman's two Fillory novels; just when you think you've got the course charted, along comes a fresh gust to blow the story into a strange new direction. This time around, Quentin's friend Julia fills the role of angst-ridden magician in the making, but her story is at once darker and more ultimately uplifting than Quentin's was. The story as a whole feels easier, less fraught, and less self-conscious than the previous book, even though it's arguably a more mature and thoughtful treatment of magic, desire and a person's ability to live with themselves and their choices.
Grossman has really done a great job with this second book in what I am hoping is a new series for these magicians. It is easy to tell that the characters and Grossman are both more mature and more sure of personalities, roles in the story, and dialogue. The plot takes off as the 4 - Julia, Quintin, Elliot, and Janet are kings and queens in Fillory and as they once again get drawn and dragged into quests and adventures. There are great weaving story lines and Grossman has some great moments of twists and reveals. I am expecting there to be at least one more in this series with how it ended, very leading into a new step type ending, but still very well done.
Audible rawks! My taste is beyond eclectic and Audible always has plenty to choose from, no matter what mood I'm in!
Though The Magicians seemed like it ended in a great spot, when I heard that there was another book planned I immediately thought of a few storylines I wouldn't mind seeing Mr. Grossman flesh out, especially Julia's story of what she was up to while The Magicians was happening. Let's just say I eventually felt like calling TMI (felt like, but didn't stop listening, of course) as Julia's tale spun towards the point where she would join with the Physical Kids. Quentin's story, the main plot, continues from where we left him emotionally and logistically and the mix of old and new characters hit me as just right.
Even when the action is at its high point, something in Grosssman's prose keeps it tamped down a bit. Likewise, Mark Bramhall's performance keeps things at a quiet, understated pitch while losing nothing of the wonder/horror that might be happening on the page. Quentin and Julia pride themselves on being cool customers: Bramhall gets that tone and maintains it.
Adventures abound and magic is, again, not always what you want it to be. Now, there is one more female character I'd like to hear from, and it seemed to me that there was a hint that Grossman isn't completely done with her either. Fingers crossed for the next installment!
Once again, the critics love a book and it leaves me completely cold. A seemingly endless journey where characters change little and spend more time talking about it instead of doing.
A university specializing in magic is the setting, but the true essence of the novel involves the relationship between students. Interesting parallel between our educational systms and the ranking of normal magicians and gifted magicians. Reminds me at times of The Tallisman by Stephen King, one of my favorite novels or all times. Some people have thought of this novel as an "adult Harry Potter" but I disagree. if you want a book that can take you way and maintain credibility and believability, you will like this one.
The conclusion to this anti-Harry Potter, anti-Narnia, disenfranchised youth series took us a long time to finish listening to, but was worth it in the end. Both the first book and the second deal with the concept of what does it really mean to be heroic. The protagonist in these books is not the anti-hero of the Thomas Covenant series and not the reluctant hero (Frodo) of the Lord of the Rings. Quentin is a disenfranchised youth who wants to be Harry Potter or Prince Caspian. Maybe even more like a video game hero.
While the first book takes the reader through the Harry Potter and Narnia-like fantasies, the second book becomes more of a Homeric hero's journey. Through out the series, no matter how many times you've been bitten, you almost believe Quentin when you hear the familiar phrase, "This is it! This is what I'm meant to do!" Maybe this really is it!?!?
You are also told the story of Julia, Quentin's old crush. A story of having to lose everything to eventually find herself.
Grossman pulls no punches, but ultimately everything means something. There isn't anything gratuitous. Everything is there to explore the question of what does it mean to be a hero. His humor, mostly nods to modern culture and popular fantasy/sci-fi, keeps the dialog clever. All well performed by the reader, Mark Bramhall, who seemed to fully embody the disenfranchised youth voice.
Not a book for everyone. It's a book that dares to insert reality into fantasy. Not something that is always welcome.
I read Lev Grossman's previous book, The Magicians, and decided to listen to this one. I enjoyed both a great deal. They are perhaps a little longer than they could be, but it's so much fun and so interesting that who cares? I think this was my first time listening to Mark Bramhall, who adds a lot of character and humor to his reading. I love the main premise of these books. If you're looking for something fun and absorbing to listen to that also has complexity, go for it. Particularly good for people familiar with fantasy and children's books. Several steps above Harry Potter in my book, and written for adults.
Great book. Well worth the credit! Nice plot that keeps you guessing. Can't wait for more from this author.
I quite enjoyed these books. They were fairly well written and very well read. I gave the story a 3 because I felt that although "narnia" isn't mentioned in this story it is very obvious that that is where the inspiration came from. I just wished that the author didn't rely so heavily on the narnia series for plot lines as I feel that with a bit more thought these books could have been excellent. Would I recommend this book, yes and I would listen to them again. All in all it was fun and enjoyable.
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