Lev Grossman is an asshole. Let me explain. Fantasy writing has a strange way of making you hope. You can’t tell me that you read Harry Potter and didn’t wish that you got that letter when you were eleven. But that was okay because you were probably older than eleven when you read it, and understood that you were too old. Then Lev opened another door with his book, The Magicians. It was called Brakebills, a college that could teach you magic. Maybe you were too old then as well, like me I was 26, and swallowed that hope once more. If you are close to thirty, and working a regular 9 to 5, and felt okay that you never got your letter for Hogwarts and never took the Brakebills exam, Mr. Grossman reignites that futile hope once more with his new book, The Magician King. That is why I called him an asshole, he opens the door for everyone here. That crack house a few miles away? It may not be a drug haven at all. It might just be an underground safe house for learning magic. Those people walking out are strung-out on spells not speed. I’m not a crazy person, I don’t believe these things are real, but it’s nice to hope that they are, and any good fantasy book ignites that hope in you. That is exactly what this book delivers.
The Magician King takes place a short time after the events of The Magicians (Which was my nerdy little secret over on The Super Jawncast! a few episodes ago). It picks up back in Fillory where Quentin, Julia, Eliot and Janet are ruling as kings and queens. Eliot and Janet seemed rather happy with the arrangement, Julia doesn’t seem to care one way or another, but Quentin was bored, which spurs this story along straight away. It’s an adventure from page one (page three if you want to get technical) and there is no stopping until the back cover. Quentin’s big adventure is interspersed with chapters about how Julia learned to do magic after failing her exam in The Magicians. Those chapters, while separate from the main quest, never feel out of place and never stifle the flow of the book. The two stories are connected and come together beautifully at their conclusion. This is a true fantasy novel with everything you expect from something described as such, but with very personal, relatable problems. It follows the formula Grossman developed with The Magicians giving us real fantasy and the real world.
I loved The Magicians; the ending left me with serious excitement for The Magician King, and Grossman delivered with a very solid follow up. This book is clearly a set up for the end of the series, Quentin’s story is not finished, and while I can’t say I’m looking forward to it ending, I can’t wait to see how it does. Although, I’m sure Grossman will once again leave us with a hope that cannot be fulfilled.