The Magician King by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed Lev Grossman’s second novel in The Magicians trilogy. With The Magician King, I feel that Grossman progressed as an author, moving into a realm more of his own imagination and less reliant on the works of C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling.
I enjoyed Grossman’s first novel as well, but my chief complaint was that he borrowed too much from other series. In the Magician King, Brakebills is no longer a major setting so the similarities to Harry Potter are essentially gone. There were obviously still similarities with The Chronicles of Narnia (especially Voyage of the Dawn Treader), but then, Fillory is clearly based on Narnia so I think so commonalities will always exist.
I think the thing that I liked the most in this novel was the character development. Quentin has learned many lessons from his experiences in the first novel and, in the second, starts becoming a hero, instead of the immature and discontent near-genius that he started out as.
Quentin’s high school friend Julia, who makes an unexpected appearance at the end of the first novel, plays a much more important role in the second. We get a look at what happens to some of the students that flunk out of the Brakebills exam or who discover magic on their own. It really was interesting (and often gut wrenching) to see what she went through.
Beyond Julia, we didn’t meet too many new characters of importance, but, for some reason, I really liked Poppy. She wasn’t hugely important, but I thought she was a well-considered secondary character.
Much like the first novel, The Magician King was subject to Grossman’s sense of realism. As in real life, many things do not go as planned for Quentin and his friends. However, there is still a great deal of magical wonder. The combination of the too is sometimes odd, but definitely interesting.
Overall, I liked The Magician King. I thought Grossman’s imagination and storytelling abilities were much more pronounced in his second novel of the series, and the character development was well-done. If you liked the first novel, then you should certainly enjoy the second as well.