The Magician King
The Magicians #2
Published 2011 by Viking (Penguin)
My Goodreads rating: 4 stars
The Magician King made major improvements on what was already a pretty cool story. The addition of Julia's perspective brought both more darkness and a certain addictive quality to the book, and I loved where Grossman went with the story.
I liked The Magician King quite a bit better than The Magicians. Rather than just focusing on Quentin, The Magician King alternates between Quentin in the present and flashbacks from Julia's past. It starts off some time after the end of The Magicians, with the four monarchs in Fillory, bored and unsatisfied with life, at least on Quentin's part. They get a quest, go off and do Crazy Things, discover Unfortunate Truths, and basically save the world, The Magicians style.
If The Magicians was an R-rated cross between Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which it totally was), The Magician King is all Voyage of the Dawn Treader, only without the religious allegory. There is a little religious commentary in the background, but it's not what you would call positive. But the series doesn't try to hide its origins, and it actually makes for some really interesting reading. If, instead of young British siblings, the Chronicles of Narnia featured recent college graduates suffering from varying degrees of disillusionment...well, you'd wind up with exactly what you have here. It's quite fascinating and a brilliant idea.
On the subject of disillusionment, Quentin, though entirely relatable, can be rather irritating to read about, being a little whiny and generally unsatisfied with his life, no matter how awesome it is. This made the stories from Julia's past quite a relief. They were much darker, but more enthralling and readable. Julia has a seriously screwed-up history, and only towards the end of the book is it really clear how that history relates to what's going on in their present.
I also appreciated the way mythology was incorporated into their system of magic. The magic Quentin learned at his school, Brakebills, in The Magicians was interesting and extremely precise and complex, and the way the existence of magic was explained in this book, in combination with the addition of mythological figures, gave the story more depth and a great background. Grossman didn't bring in specific gods so much as the concept of gods and did it in a very interesting and thought-provoking way. I can't wait to learn more about magic in book three.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. If you haven't read The Magicians and are interested in a gritty reboot of children's fantasy, definitely check it out. If you have read the first book, make sure you continue the series, because the The Magician King is even better.