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Something went seriously wrong (Spoilers),
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This review is from: The Magician King: A Novel (Magicians Trilogy) (Hardcover)
I enjoyed the first book despite its shortcomings and looked forward to reading this sequel. I even paid full price for both. Now that I have read the sequel, I can't say that I feel the same way about its inevitable follow-up.
We start with Quentin and the three people who picked him up at the end of the last book (Julia, Eliot, and Janet) well established as the rulers of Fillory. Like Narnia, which Grossman rips off even more blatantly in this book than he did in the last, Fillory has two kings and two queens. We skipped over exactly why or how this came to be and no explanation is offered in this book. We DO get a detailed explanation for how Julia became a magician without an acceptance to Brakebills. The story is interesting, but I disliked it for personal reasons. I just take umbrage with any person, fictional or non, who blames their failures on other people. Julia's story is filled with whining about how she deserved to get into Brakebills and she blames everyone except herself for flunking the exam that got her rejected in the first place. INCLUDING QUENTIN, which suddenly becomes a major plot point in the last ten pages of the novel. And since Grossman never establishes that she even WANTED to be a magician in the first place, her attitude is even harder to deal with. Why is she so determined to get into a world she never had much desire to join in the first place? She just wants it because she can't have it. And [BIG SPOILER ALERT!!] that story ends with a crazy rape scene that just pops out of the blue with zero warning and zero context or relevance. There's much to be said about a male author who subjects a female character to rape and then tries to use that as some kind of empowerment.
So first the story is Quentin wanting a quest or some adventure to take him out of his palatial boredom. That veers into Quentin getting moved back to Earth by accident, then trying to get back. Once he gets back, he joins a quest that's nearly over, we get one confusing "action" scene that is honestly very poorly written, and then we learn about a huge, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it danger 3/4ths of the way through the book. Luckily, this danger can be solved by completing the quest THEY'RE ALREADY ON. And then Surprise!, fifty pages later, quest's over and the danger is gone. WE SEE NO ACTION in this book except for the aforementioned bad scene. There are DRAGONS in this book and it's STILL BORING!! How does that happen? Something somewhere went seriously wrong in the writing of this novel. My guess is that Grossman decided to rip off "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" practically verbatim then wimped out of that and cobbled together another story to staple onto that one instead. If you're going to rip something off, just go for it! Do it all the way, or don't do it at all. Like the crew of the Dawn Treader, the characters here sail east to various islands looking for lost things that are scattered across the Eastern sea. As they go, the sea gets more shallow and the sun gets more intense, until they reach a place where the world ends. UNLIKE Dawn Treader, we don't actually get to see most of the islands they visit, even though they're named on the map in the front and back of the book. Eliot sums them all up in once sentence for Quentin, and we move right along to the END of that story. In another scene, a character returns to announce that there will be a battle waged between Gods and magicians, and that DRAGONS are helping them fight it. All these dragons burst out, then Quentin leaves to go do something else. WE DON'T GET TO SEE THE DRAGON FIGHT.
What kind of a writer comes up with or rips off awesome ideas for a story, then FAILS to actually WRITE ABOUT THEM?? Why the heck did he choose to ONLY write about the boring parts of this journey? I would have preferred to follow them on their sea adventure and have Quentin show up and briefly explain the boring crap he did on Earth while everyone else was having a good time. Quentin simply isn't an interesting enough character to follow unless he's doing something pretty cool. I didn't realize that in the last book because he WAS doing something that was interesting to read about, and Grossman wrote it pretty well. That is not the case here.
Sorry there are so many spoilers in this review, but I just don't know how to explain my frustration with it without spoiling things a bit. And summing up that frustration in words was harder than I thought it would be. The bottom line is that Grossman had all the plot elements and ingredients to make this book good, but he mixed them all up and told them in the wrong order and in the wrong way, so all we're left with is a peek at what the book COULD have been if he'd handled it better. It's a mess, is what I am trying to say. It's just a really complete and total mess. VERY disappointing.
Based on how things "end" there will have to be a sequel to this. I won't be reading it unless I get a free copy and have a lot of free time.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 5, 2012 1:36:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 5, 2012 1:39:08 PM PST
Thanks for the review. Just had to comment that I agree about the WTF rape and 'empowerment'. I'm also disappointed that the dragons did not play a larger (visible) role.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2012 3:11:30 PM PST
You're welcome and thanks for the comment. I found the first book flawed but still enjoyable and original in many ways, so I was looking forward to reading this one and could not be more disappointed with how it turned out. Rape by a fox God must have seemed like such a great idea in his head but he wrote it horribly and the scene was ridiculous. When in doubt, GO WITH THE DRAGONS. Dragons are awesome in ways that rape will never be.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2012 4:28:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 5, 2012 4:28:38 PM PST
I agree. It was boring and confusing. The author had a few bright moments with his lovely prose, but the plot just wasn't there this time. And yes, the rape scene and subsequent powers was bizarre.
Posted on Jan 20, 2012 10:11:19 AM PST
Geoffrey Barrett says:
While I agree with many of your criticisms here, I think to some extent you've missed the point here. This isn't an action story, full of swashbuckling battles. This is a story about the flawed character, Quentin. Sure, Quentin is put into this setting with dragons, magical lands, he's even a magician himself. But essentially, that is window dressing for the main point which is Quentin (and in the subplot, Julia). However, I do agree that Quentin isn't all that interesting and thus we get some of the letdown in this book. I enjoyed the first book. I didn't really get caught by this book until the midpoint. It was mildly interesting, the Julia subplot was the highlight, but it was mostly a letdown from the first book. I wanted to see the [SPOILER] demigod Julia get a chance to put that power to use. Other than that, it was what it was. This book isn't about Fillory or dragons or kings. It is about an oh so ordinary, slightly cynical, Quentin, who never really grows up.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 20, 2012 6:06:58 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 20, 2012 6:07:57 PM PST
No, it's about "oh so ordinary, slightly cynical, Quentin, who" GOES ON A QUEST. He leaves his magic kingdom to go back to the real world in a sort of reverse "Kid in King Arthur's Court" tale, gets involved in a quest to save the world, meets dragons and learns about a battle that is soon to take place. Action is all around this story, bleeding into margins and all that side action is way more interesting than the story you're describing, and the story Lev Grossman ultimately chose to write. THAT is the point I was making. I don't like this story. Period. I wouldn't expect "an action story, full of swashbuckling battles" if it weren't for all the TEASES we get about action and battles that we don't actually get to see, scenes that happen "off-screen" as it were, and sound a heckuva lot more interesting than most of what we DO see. How is that missing the point? The point was to tell a story about Quentin and Julia. I'm saying the story he told sucks. He should have (and based on the skills he showed in the first book, COULD have) told a better one.
In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2012 9:35:25 AM PDT
kaduzy, I agree with your review, although I would rate the book a 2.5-4 out of 5. I enjoyed "The Magicians", but was always disappointed that Quentin never really reached his full potential as a magician, until the last portion of the book when he recovers from his Martin Chatwin induced injury. I was expecting Quentin to use a lot more magic in this novel, but it seems he forgot most of what he learned in the first book, until the poorly written action sequence, where he just starts casting random spells on instinct. It reminds me a lot of Harry Potter, where he is the main character, the chosen one, but he really isn't that special when it comes to casting spells and doing magic. I liked Alice, but I felt somewhat cheated when she attacks Martin Chatwin at the end of "The Magicians" because I feel like that should have been Quentin's time to shine. He finally gets his chance in this novel, but he only does it because he believes that's what the prototypical hero should do, so it's pretty disappointing. The book ends pretty flat, with everything up in the air. It downplays Quentin's "sacrifice" which really doesn't seem too significant to begin with. I'm not really sure what Grossman was trying to do, but I don't really have high hopes that he will accomplish it in his third and hopefully final addition to this series.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 1, 2012 8:10:47 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 1, 2012 8:12:03 AM PDT
Rusty ShackleFord says:
I agree. This review helped sum up a lot of the things I was feeling. It seems like he just came up with the ending and wrote backwards from there, but that would not explain why it feels so rushed and forced. I felt like the end was total deus ex machina, and I doubt I will be reading the next one.
Posted on Jun 5, 2012 2:46:00 AM PDT
Seems like we all agree that the third book will not be worth reading. I wonder how sales will do and if other readers feel the same.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2012 1:07:00 PM PDT
And is it just me, but does Quentin come off as sort of a smarmy lounge lizard in this book when it comes to women? I'll read the third book for sure because the first book was so superb, but I'm really hoping the plot is better.