Grossman, Lev. The Magician King. William Heinemann, 2011. ISBN 978-0434020805 372 pp. $
This was as good as The Magicians, with just enough explanation to fill the gap, and the balance of Quentin’s continuing adventures with What Happened to Julia was deft. Really enjoyed all the allusions, and the satisfying conclusion.
Grossman, Lev. The Magicians. Viking, 2009. ISBN 978-0670020553 416 pp. $28
Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia in this novel about a misfit boy obsessed with the Fillory fantasy series, who is the odd man out in a love triangle, but comes into his own after excelling in an entrance exam to Brakebills, a college for magicians. Quentin quickly discovers magic is more memorizing and practicing than aptitude and skill, and that sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for.
This is an amazing fantasy for grownups. Quentin is not a likeable character or an empathetic one through most of the book, and the fellow students in his house are wonderfully flawed dynamic characters who stick together even after school. The writing is good, and dark, and deep, and not terribly difficult even as it wrestles with themes like the nature of love and friendship and the use (and misuse) of power. The fandom built up around Fillory is an unsubtle nod to the long tradition of fantasy for children, and at times the tone of The Magicians seems to imply that the Magicians is looking at itself and it’s place in the lineup, which is interesting. It did lag for me in the post college part, a little, but the finale was exciting and there were plenty of surprises.