The Magician King by Lev Grossman

grossmanThe Magician King by Lev Grossman

Viking Press, New York, 2011

From my TBR pile.  My first book for the Once Upon A Time VII challenge.

I read The Magicians last year and found it just okay.  Early reviews mentioned “Harry Potter for adults”.  The novel is about a New York City teenager, Quinton Coldwater, who while thinking he is  applying for university is  surprised with an invitation to attend Brakesbills College, a kind of ivy league Hogwarts.  Quinton, along with other “Physical” students,  spends years in class, learning spell casting, and enjoying first loves, sex, drugs and drinking.  Eventually several of the students enter the land of Fillory, an “imaginary” place from a series of  beloved children’s book very much like C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.  Maybe it was the referential use of this classic series that made me a bit squeamish.

I found the second book  much more satisfying.  It centers on two of the characters from the first book, Quinton and Julia, and brings historic depth and clarity to their behavior and their choices.  There is better storytelling, more fantasy, with strong roots in folklore and mythology.  I think Grossman worked hard to bring his characters to life and strengthen the magic.   I am hoping that there will be more books to come because  I’d like to know what happens to these young people.

The goddess was warm, even humorous, and loving, but she had a second aspect, terrible in its bleakness: a mourning aspect that she assumed in winter, when she descended into the underworld, away from the light.  There were different versions of the story.  In some she grew angry at all mankind and hid herself underground half the year out of rage.  In some she lost one of her dryad-daughters and retired to Hades in grief.  In others the goddess was fooled by some Loki-type trickster-god and bound to spend half the year hiding her warmth and fruitfulness in the underworld, against her will.  But in each version her dual nature was clear.  She was the goddess of darkness as well as light.   A Black Madonna:  the blackness of death, but also the blackness of good soil, dark with decay, which gives rise to life.  From page 325.


Filed under 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, DarkFantasy, Fantasy, LiteraryFiction, Once Upon A Time VII

10 responses to “The Magician King by Lev Grossman

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said. I wasn’t sure whether it was indeed a case of Grossman getting better at his job, or simply that I liked the story he had to tell in this book better than the one in the first book. But yeah, I thought The Magician King was excellent and made some of the frustrating things about The Magician King less frustrating.

  2. I have the first book on my library pile for OUaT so it’ll be interesting to see what I think. Whatever I think, it looks like I should persevere with the series to at least book two.

  3. Ti

    Glad you liked the second book better. I guess sometimes the first book is used to set the story up. I enjoyed HP but I tend to not like magic books for adults.

  4. I actually picked this up from the library a couple of months ago but didn’t read it as I hadn’t realised it was the second in series and I hadn’t actually read the first. Given that you didn’t really enjoy the first and I’ve already heard a few other negative reviews do you consider it worth starting the series in order to get to this one. I must admit that I’d been a little bit put off by a few reviews I read about No.1.
    Lynn :D

    • I think it is worth reading The Magicians, both for the story set-up and to see the difference in the depth of the two novels. Unless you have too many, many books on your TBR piles….

  5. I’ve been debating picking this one up. I kind of hated the first one. Not all of it, but I did begin to get squeamish when they went to Fillory, and Quentin became a byword in my book club for characters who mope around and don’t DO anything.

    I’ve been hearing this one is better, but I’ve mostly been hearing that from people who liked the first one! Good to hear from someone who didn’t love the first one but found this one an improvement. I may have to pick it up eventually, if only out of curiosity…

  6. I remember being a bit mixed on the first one, I mostly liked it, but I can’t say I was excited enough to rush out and buy a copy of this one. Good to hear it is more enjoyable though, so maybe I’ll give it a go.

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