You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Magician King

The Magician King is the followup to Lev Grossman's The Magicians. Where The Magicians was a dark coming of age story about young people learning how to use magical powers, this book is about a search for a quest and the discovery of something more. It's also a parallel story about an even darker coming of age.

Quentin is king of Fillory, the magical land he and his friends found in the previous story. He rules with his friend Julia from high school, and his friends Janet and Eliot from Brakebills, the school of magic they graduated from. Ruling over this small tranquil land is pretty boring, so the four of them have decided to go on a quest. Since they are looking for a questing beast, it's more of a metaquest, a quest for a quest. When Quentin makes one choice and one of their servants dies, they rethink their plans.

The book is also the story of how Julia learned magic. Rejected from Brakebills, she went on a dark journey that took her into the hidden underworld of magic. She found secret magic houses and magician mentors. She invents her own spells and discovers an ultrasecret group of magicians who lead her on the ultimate search for power.

Bored, Quentin decides to visit the outermost island in Fillory's realm. After having a ship outfitted, he and Julia travel there to find it nearly deserted. But he hears about a magic key that is on an island even farther out, and finally decides to seek it. But when he and Julia find the key, they are thrust into an unwanted quest: suddenly they find themselves back in the real world.

With both of them confused and upset, Julia takes the lead. She uses her wild magic and her underworld connections to find a way back to Fillory. They retrace her steps to learning magic and Quentin learns some of what she had to go through to get where she is. On the way they discover clues to the real quest, and start to put them together. It turns out that Julia's past is one of the keys, as well as one of Quentin's friends from school.

This story has several layers. One layer is Julia's magical education and how it compares to Quentin's. Another layer is the unexpected nature of the quest. One quest leads to another until the real quest is revealed, and it turns out to be a threat to the existence of Fillory itself. Another aspect is Quentin's malcontent with life in Fillory and always expecting something more interesting. The irony is not only does he find it, he is rejected from Fillory altogether. It's great reading about Julia and contrasting her history to Quentin's. The story has plenty of twists to keep the reader interested (even beyond the mild spoilers here). While the previous book has its dark spots, this one has a darker thread running through it. The ending is bittersweet, and apparently final. But Quentin is just good enough and just complex enough to want to read another story about him. A

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