The Magicians is fast becoming my new favorite magical universe. Beginning with a secret college of magic and from there discovering an incredible number of other worlds, other dimensions, all connected through a place called the Neitherlands—it’s pretty awesome. Beware of spoilers for The Magicians ahead (I’ll try not to spoil The Magician King).
The Magician King picks up where we left off at the end of The Magicians: Quentin, Janet, Eliot, and Julia have become kings and queens of Fillory, and—as kings and queens are wont to do—reside in a beautiful castle, Whitespire. Quentin, always a malcontent (I saw a review on Goodreads that said something like, “If Quention found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, he would complain that it was too heavy” and that is 100% Quentin) feels as though his easy, comfortable life as a king of Fillory is too easy, and he longs for a quest. To his surprise and dismay, his desire for a quest ends up stranding him—and Julia—back on Earth with no means to return to Fillory.
Now, Quentin must figure out how to get back to Fillory and how to save the realm from utter distruction…and how to save Julia from the inner darkness that seems to be enveloping her.
In alternating chapters, we get a view both of Quentin and Julia’s quest to return to Fillory, as well as Julia’s back-breaking journey through the grimy “safehouses” where she learned magic after being rejected from Brakebills. The Magician King is a great follow-up to The Magicians, and only leaves me more excited to finish the trilogy with The Magician’s Land.
You may remember from my review of The Magicians that I called it “Harry Potter, The College Years.” That would probably make The Magician King “Harry Potter and the Quarter-Life Crisis,” but I would like to remind you that this series is no light-hearted romp through Hogsmeade or Narnia. The magic of The Magicians trilogy is a gritty, soul-sucking thing that can and will destroy you—if you let it.
I’m so glad we finally got Julia’s story. I almost have to wonder if Quentin’s quest storyline—which seemed a little thin—was merely a way to keep people interested while Grossman told Julia’s story. Because, I mean, when Julia, Janet, and Eliot show up at the end of The Magicians to whisk Quentin away to Fillory, it left me with a lot of questions about how Julia ended up there. I personally found myself quite a bit more invested in Julia’s story than in the overall quest; her absolute determination to learn as much about magic as she could, despite the toll it took on her health, sanity, and finances, was admirable if a little terrifying for its intensity.
Meanwhile, Quentin’s questing spirit takes them beyond the farthest reaches of Fillory, to strange islands both habited and un-, as well as to Venice, England, and back through the Neitherlands. They meet friends both old and new, including a talking sloth, and have more adventure than Quentin could have hoped for. But all these quests and adventures have consequences, some minor and some extreme.
The stories actually parallel each other rather nicely: Quentin must save the world’s magic, and Julia must save her own. And don’t get me wrong, I still liked Quentin’s storyline—but Julia’s is the one that’s really going to stick with me.by