I’ve been out for a bit, dealing with school and family issues, but I wanted to post a review for a book I’d read a bit ago. I’ll try to keep up, but the next few weeks might be a little inconsistent. Thanks for sticking with me.
Quentin and company are the Kings and Queens of Fillory. This includes Eliot, Janet, and (to Quentin’s surprise) Julia, even if she’s not quite the same Julia that Quentin used to know. In reality – a strange word to use for the fictional world of Fillory – ruling requires very little of the Brakebills’, so they spend their time waving to their constituents and hunting the Unique Beasts of Fillory. Quentin, in need of a quest or a renewed sense of purpose, volunteers to head to the Outer Islands to collect long overdue taxes, instead finding himself thrust into a mission to save magic.
I liked The Magicians because I liked its edge. The Magician King takes that edge and knocks it up to 11, and it kind of works. The Magicians had a big focus on the “reality” of magic. With this big, great power of magic, we begin to see how trivial the world is, at least through Quentin’s eyes. They spend a lot of time partying because really, what else do you do with endless amounts of time and nearly unlimited power and money? In The Magicians, we see how the Brakebills come into their power.
In The Magician King, we don’t see so much of the party that is magic. We see the struggle someone will undergo to get there. Julia is my favorite character in the show, and she’s one of my favorite characters in this book, too. One of the biggest complaints about her is that she’s so angry. I’d be pissed, too. She’s witty, resourceful, and smart – smarter than Quentin. I find it nearly impossible to believe that Quentin would have done the things that Julia has done to discover magic on her own. This may be my favorite quote from a book of all time (it’s definitely my favorite quote right now):
“Honestly, he was decent-looking, better-looking than he thought he was, but that moody boy-man Fillory shit cut like zero ice with her, and she was smart enough to know whose problem that was, and it wasn’t hers.”
Julia’s got a point when it comes to Quentin. Not just her opinion of Quentin-that-was, but also what she thinks of Quentin now, and the rest of the Brakebills. They are… ungrateful probably isn’t the right word. Whiny might be? I understand Quentin and his need to be constantly moving, constantly on a mission, constantly after some goal. And I understand that lost feeling when it seems like you’re just existing. But they have this entitlement. They believe that at the end of your story, you’re the hero, and there are no consequences for the hero. The Brakebills have come to know magic in a safe, controlled way. And for Julia, the world has never been that easy.
I liked The Magician King a lot more than I remember liking The Magicians. The story arc is more consistent, with a clear goal throughout the entire story. I also genuinely think that part of my enjoyment comes from Julia’s presence throughout this novel. My biggest complaint is that this novel has an edge to it. Not like, a depression edge, because I understand where that’s supposed to be coming from. But like, an “I’m smarter than you,” edge to it. As in, you might have to put the book down to look something up that the character just knows. It lends an overly cerebral air to the book that I’m not sure I love.
I’m looking forward to reading the final book in The Magicians Trilogy. Grossman’s world-building s rivaled by few, and these novels offer a thought-provoking look at how getting everything you thought you’ve ever wanted still may not be enough. On a more surface level, they’re also a really enjoyable read.