Matilda Reviews: The Magician King by Lev Grossman


Wow, it’s been a while since I reviewed a book. My life for the past month has been a series of ups and downs, so reading has unfortunately fallen by the wayside. I did, however, manage to steadily (albeit slowly) plug away at the second installment in Lev Grossman’s Magician series, The Magician King. (I recently read and reviewed the first book, The Magicians.)

In The Magician King, the not-quite-lovable Quentin is back in the magical land of Fillory, this time joining fellow Brakebills graduates Janet and Eliot, along with his high school friend Julia, as rulers. Disappointingly, it turns out that being king of Fillory is not the most exciting of careers, so Quentin, being Quentin, decides to go off in search of a new Quest and a chance to become a Hero.

His Quest leads him on the search for seven golden keys—keys to what, he doesn’t know—but he trusts that they’re important because this is Fillory after all. After he and Julia open an invisible door with one key, they are disappointingly transported back to Earth, where they meet up with some of Quentin’s old friends and attempt desperately to find a portal back to Fillory, seeing as they’ve lost the magic buttons that normally allow them to jump between worlds.

Meanwhile on Earth, we learn much more about Julia’s past—Julia, who was rejected after taking the Brakebills entrance exam and who hit rock bottom before discovering unofficial “schools” of magic on the street, is absolutely brilliant. She masters hundreds of spells before working her way up to a (very traumatic) breakthrough of sorts when she manages to communicate with a god via magic.

When Quentin and Julia do find their way back to Fillory—after only three days on Earth, a year has passed in Fillory—they learn that the gods have decided to take magic back from humans. After a brief period of total devastation at the thought of having to live like normal non-magical humans do, they realize that the seven golden keys may be able to save magic.

I liked this book even more than I liked The Magicians. Yes, it’s all over the place, and yes, a million things happen before everything finally starts to make sense, but that’s all part of what makes it so well crafted. The story is rich and intricate, the characters are interesting and complex, and the entire thing is absolutely hilarious. I don’t know what it is about Grossman’s writing, but I found myself snorting throughout the entire book.

I know that these stories are often compared to Harry Potter, but the more I think about it, the less I feel the two can be compared. They have very different scopes, and each series is wonderful in its own way. I think what I like most about the Magicians series is that the magic is so serious. In these books, magic can get you into deep shit. Magic can teach you things about time and space that you can barely wrap your mind around. Magic is woven into the divine.

The only word she could think of to describe this magic was grave. There was nothing light or playful about it: it was dead fucking sober magic. Serious as a heart attack. Where was the line between a spell and a miracle? Turning moonlight into silver coins wasn’t exactly parting the Red Sea, but the effortlessness with which it was accomplished spoke of much larger possibilities. It was a minor effect running off an enormous power source.

I highly recommend this series. And now I’m off to reserve the third book, The Magician’s Land (which was just published this month!) at my library.


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