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The Magician King
By Lev Grossman

Who doesn't wish Fillory was real? Or Hogwarts? Or Narnia?

The Magicians and the Magician King bring magic to life in a way day dreamers, young and old, hope for. Quentin Coldwater is just like you, or me, well, not really, he's a genius. But he's a dreamer, as those enmeshed in fantasy often are. As a child he was captivated by Fillory novels, as we were captivated by Narnia, or Hogwarts. For Quintin, though, magic was real, and he was able to become a magician.

The rest of us are lucky to get a three day weekend here and there and maybe a Christmas ham.

The first novel was a mad dash through years of education at Brakebills and then the discovery of Quentin's dream, that Fillory was real. Unfortunately, I felt the mad dash a challenge to keep up with and left some of the character development in the dust. Though many of the characters jumped off the paper into real life (Quentin and Eliot), others were short-changed and I didn't have the desperate longing for them to win—or them to die, depending on my bent.

The second novel, the Magician King, was a language masterpiece. I loved ever line. I could quote one paragraph after the next and the next… I enjoyed the geek references, the snarkiness, the deeper moments. Grossman really matured in his writing style in this second of the series.

Quentin is a king of Fillory, what more could any day dreamer ask for? The Magician King also gave us a look into Julia's past, Quentin's old friend who didn't get into Brakebills. With expert word smithing Grossman gave both characters' stories distinct voices. Jumping from one story line to the other wasn't an eyerolling bout of frustration, but a welcome shift to focus on an old friend.

The Magician King took on a more reasonable pace. The plot was a late bloomer, though. With few hints of anything cohesive until near the middle of the book. It was a day in the life kind of tale, which was fine with Grossman's expert turns of phrases. (seriously, this is the kind of book I would study.)

I wonder if another book is coming out in this series, because the ending was cruel and an unsatisfying conclusion to the Magicians series. I'm unsure exactly what Grossman was trying to say, assuming he was trying to make some point by taking away everything that could make Quentin happy. Grossman ganged up and bullied the main character so much, I felt myself flinching from the blows. If another book is in the works, and the Alice issue is addressed and Quentin gets some form of a Happily Every After, I'd be pleased. As it is, the ending was the Hand of the Author come down to smash the happy world of the main character with no true reason.
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June 2013

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