The Magician King by Lev Grossman finds Quentin Coldwater with everything he could ever want: magic is still real, he is a powerful magician, he lives in a world that is built around and by magic, and he is a king. He could have everything that he could ever want, yet Quentin, eternal sadboy, is still not satisfied. He is less of a jerk but still just as morose. He’s still Quentin, just with a crown. In a desperate attempt for something different, Quentin sets off to the outer islands of Fillory, his kingdom he shares with three other monarchs, to inquire about taxes that have not been paid. It is not the mostly kingly adventure, but it’s something. He gathers a crew, restores a boat, and sets off.
What should have been a simple, if not boring, tax gathering expedition quickly devolves as Quentin and Julia, a fellow Fillorian monarch yet a strangely inhuman one, find themselves back on Earth seemingly without passage back to Fillory. This kickstarts a quest both on Earth and in Fillory to save magic itself. Along this quest Quentin and crew learn what it truly means to be a hero and the high cost that comes with that title.
Interspersed with the narrative of Quentin and Julia questing to save magic is Julia’s story of what happened to her after she failed her Brakebills entrance exam. We learn of Julia’s mental and emotional fall, her rise through the safe houses of hedge witches, and her acceptance into an elite, close-knit group of hedge magicians on the verge of a magical breakthrough, one that will irrevocably alter each of their lives in profound and terrible ways. Julia’s past is the most interesting part of this book. I wish that I could join her online group of hyper-intelligent hedge witches and take part in their conversations and games. They are a diverse group that are all equally compelling. If anything, I wish there was more of Julia’s story than Quentin’s.
Perhaps it’s due to my religious upbringing or my fascination with world religions and mythologies from an early age, but I especially loved Grossman addition to the magical lore in this novel. No part of felt like it was erasing or ret-conning what was established in book 1 of the series regarding the magical system. The religious addition felt like a creative application of a reality of Earth onto a fantastical system.
CBR BINGO – I WISH…