Grossman, Lev. The Magician King.

NY: Viking, 2011.

It’s difficult to write a review of the second volume of a trilogy without spoiling it for those who haven’t begun the first volume yet. Let’s try this: At the end of volume one, Quentin Coldwater, recent graduate of Brakebills, had lost something precious and attempted to give up magic entirely as a result, but found that was impossible. Well, in this second episode, he gains the one thing he has wanted all his life: Entrance to Filory, the magical world. (And I mean that literally.)

He’s now the junior king — Eliot makes a much better High King, especially when it comes to protocol and waving to their subjects — with Janet and Julia as their two queens. Janet, like Eliot, went through school with Quentin, but Julia, his oldest friend from the years before that, didn’t. She sat the entrance exam for Brakebills but didn’t take it seriously enough, and failed. But the spell that was supposed to make her forget the experience failed, too, and she knows now that magic is real. And the need to learn how to do it takes over her life. So as Quentin and his friends pursue their quests in Filory, we also get alternating chapters detailing Julia’s earlier journey through the twilight of unregistered, unapproved training in magic’s underground safe houses. And a fascinating world it is, too. And a very dangerous one, as Julia finally learns. (This is also a good place to reiterate that these books are not Harry Potter revisited. The horrific Reynard the Fox episode, especially, is very definitely not for younger readers.)

This part of the story is a period of growth for both Quentin and Julia, and at the end of it, one of them will experience an apotheosis (also literally), while the other will lose everything, but for the most honorable of reasons. The thick plottens (as Eliot would say) and all the principal characters continue to develop. The author’s prose continues to scintillate and his descriptions are as original as ever. I recommend you have the third volume close at hand because you’re not going to want to waste any time.

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Published in: on 15 July 2019 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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