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Magician King Paperback – September 1, 2011
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""The Catcher in the Rye" for devotees of alternative universes. It's dazzling . . . A rare, strange, and scintillating novel."---Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
About the Author
Lev Grossman was born in 1969, the son of two English professors, and grew up in a suburb of Boston. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in literature and went on to the Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Yale, although he left after three years without finishing a dissertation. After Yale, Grossman worked for a string of dot-coms while writing freelance articles about books, technology and culture in general for numerous magazines, newspapers and websites, until he was hired by Time in 2002 and became the magazine's book critic as well as one of its lead technology writers. He is also the author of international bestseller CODEX.
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I have a couple of friends who say they don't like the series because the narrator is "a whiner." I don't really understand this complaint: I have not tended to feel the need to love my protagonists. And I'd argue that one of the greatest fantasy series of all time is E. Nesbit's "The Five Children and It" series, narrated by a spectacularly pompous, self-satisfied young man named Oswald. As with Quentin -- the narrator of the "Magicians" series -- Oswald's heart is in the right place, but he is delightfully irritating. And the books would not be nearly so satisfying if the narrator were NOT so irritating, if he were less self-absorbed, more aware of his own fallibility, etc. Because in his irritatingness, he -- both he's -- is LIKE US. He's human. And that both makes his foibles funnier and gives his tragedies some real emotional weight.
I like this book much better than the first book. Quinton is older and the story has lost the comparison to Harry Potter and Narnia that the first book had. This protagonist has grown and matured.
He spends a lot of time being flung unexpectedly out of Fillory and trying to find his way back into the magic land. In his quest for seven keys, he seems to spend as much time out of Fillory as in it. While out of Fillory his path crosses once again with Julia. She has spent her time becoming a master hedge witch and her magic skills are equal to Quinton. She has her own regrets. She spends time with Free Trader Beowulf with tragic results.
She helps Quinton complete the quest for the keys, but the result is what neither of them expect.
Along the way, in interstitial chapters, we learn the back story of Julia. Denied entry into Brakebills, but remembering instead of forgetting, she charts her own course into the world of magic. And it is a far darker and more gritty journey than Quentin took. With far greater loss and heartbreak.
With extraordinary skill Grossman narrates a story that is best enjoyed if you are an adult and have lived a bit of a life already. This isn't a childhood journey of childhood discovery. This is instead more of a bildungsroman, where both Quentin and Julia complete spiritual journeys and we are invited along for the ride. Shotgun!
In the Magician King we find out more about the land of Fillory and Quentins quest for adventure which of course doesn't end as well as he had hoped.
Adult magicians for grown ups.
Don't worry, Lev Grossman is not afraid to tip his hat to Harry Potter.
I was slightly bored by the introduction of Julia as a main character. I am hoping that she comes back as a big player in the third book, because as of now I care nothing for her. The only purpose she served in this particular story was to save Quentin from a couple of scrapes (which he could have gotten out of on his own.) Her back story was annoying to me and I felt it just got in the way of our Hero's quest.
The last third of the book, however, started to feel more like the first book as the point of the quest came into view. The ending is kind of a let-down as Quentin is once more let down by the land of his dreams as he simultaneously watches all of his peers zoom to lofty heights. Quentin is the only one who can't get a break it seems...