I never liked Holden Caulfield. Crucify me if you must, but I did make the mistake of reading Catcher in the Rye as an adult, with adult sense and sensibilities. So I was really not sympathetic to Holden Caulfield at Hogwarts and I’m certainly not taking Holden Caulfield’s shit in Narnia either.
Quentin (the Holdeness of all Caulfields) and his band of self-adsorbed fellow magicians now reign in Fillory (it really is Narnia adjacent) as self-adsorbed despots. Grossman loves to play with genres and tropes, but I really have no idea if he is doing it ironically or earnestly or if he even has any idea himself at this point. (I do think Fillory started out as a Narnia spoof and the series was suppose to be a riff on traditional youth adult fantasy, but I think Grossman may have drank his own Kool-Aid at some point. Or I’m just not hip enough to get this series.)
Quentin, because he is Quentin, can’t be content with getting exactly what he wanted. So he and a few magic buddies go off on a Voyage of the Dawn Treader quest that again blurs the lines between outright genre play and inelegant fan fic. Julia comes along and if you don’t remember her from the first book, just know that she’s a girl Quentin has treated poorly at some point. Much like everyone else that crosses Quentin’s path.
Julia was a friend of Quentin’s pre-Hogwarts. Julia didn’t get into Hogwarts and the forgetting spell they cast on her wore off, so she went a bit crazy. There are a lot of flashbacks to her hedge witch days, where she learned magic from an underground network of magical folk. A lot of times, Julia’s character development gets defined simply by her sexual exploits. Again, I have no idea if Grossman is hanging a lantern on how women in fantasy get the shit end of the stick when it comes to real character development or if he really has no idea what else women do except use their bodies to get what they want. In the end, it’s revealed that Julia’s weirdness since meeting back up with Quentin comes from her dabbling in magic and getting raped by a god. Because rape is pretty much the only traumatic experience a woman can have that will redefine her character. Again, no idea if this is social commentary or lazy storytelling. But I can tell you that I am exhausted with it and will not be returning for the next book. Which isn’t a lightly spoken threat, either, since I stuck around for the entirety of the Eragon series (see previous entry).