The Magician King is a 416 page fantasy novel. It is the sequel to The Magicians, the middle book in The Magicians trilogy. I bought this quite a while ago, and decided to pick it up to continue the story of Quentin, Julia, Eliot, and Janet.
This story is mostly set in Fillory, the magical meta-world in the series that is featured in a series of novels that Quentin is obsessed with that pretty closely resemble the tales of Narnia. The other parts of the novel take place in Italy, Brooklyn, and an odd assortment of other towns that Quentin and Julia visit. The main plot is much shorter than the first book, which was a bit of a breath of fresh air. The story starts out with the four rulers of Fillory and their lackluster adventures. Quentin is dying for something a little more exciting, and he unwittingly gets it when he travels to Outer Island and finds a key that kicks him out of Fillory and back into real life. The rest of the story centers around
Quentin and Julia trying to get back to Fillory.
My favorite part of the book was another large plot line, which was a woven narrative from the perspective of Julia previous to meeting Eliot and Janet, after Quentin had left for magic college. Julia was supposed to forget that she attended the Brakebills College magical exam, but they couldn’t keep her memories away. She fell into depression and quit caring about school and family. She was desperate to find magic — she would go to safehouses and learn magic from some pretty seedy types. It was her refreshing active roll that balanced Quentin’s angsty inaction and kept the book moving. Julia went from being a character I cared very little about to one of my top three favorites. Quentin, however, remained in the bottom of my favorites. He is still exceedingly angsty and quite selfish, though not as much as in the first novel, thankfully.
While this novel holds less of the Harry Potter/Narnia feeling that The Magicians did, it had a lot better paced plot and kept me more engaged. The first third of the book was what seemed a continuation of The Magicians, but once it broke free of that, The Magician King’s story soared. I finished the rest of the novel in one day. In particular, Julia’s POV was incredibly dark and intriguing. Once she gets into a good group of magicians, they explore unknown and dangerous territory, which fascinates me.
If there was one thing I did not like, besides Quentin’s horrible post-teen angst, it was how Grossman drew attention to Julia’s oddness. Mentioning that Julia never spoke with contractions was jarring–mentioning when she broke character and started using them was just annoying. Although that part seemed unnecessary, Grossman clearly has fun with breaking the fourth wall in this novel. More than just bringing up pop cultural references, he refers to Fillory in a Harry Potter/Narnia sense in the novel. It made the story feel very modern and fun, which allowed for a little forgiveness in mentioning certain peoples’ character flaws.
Overall, The Magician King is a solid sequel to The Magicians. Though I would never have guessed it from how the story ended, the final page in the book had an advert for the next book in what is planned to be a trilogy. After doing a bit of researching, I found that the name of the next and final book in the trilogy is (quite probably) The Magician’s Land. After enjoying The Magician King, I know I will pick the third book up and read it when it comes out. If you haven’t ventured into the magic world that Grossman created, and you enjoyed the similar series (HP, Narnia), I would recommend starting out with The Magicians. It was a perfect disillusioned story after finishing the epic Harry Potter adventure of my youth.