Usually, if I don't enjoy a book there is very little chance that I'm going to bother reading the sequel. But I had a whole weekend ahead of me with nothing to read so when my neighbour offered me his copy of The Magician King I took it out of desperation.
It's not that I hated the The Magicians, the first book in Lev Grossman's The Magicians series, but I can't say that I really enjoyed it. It was just too grim and gritty for my taste, and I didn't really like any of the characters (except maybe Alice). I had heard, though, that the sequel was better than its predecessor, and my few interactions with Lev have shown him to be a really nice guy, so I really did want to like his books. So when the The Magician King came out I decided, that while I wasn't going to go out of my way to get a hold of if I somehow did come across it I might give it a chance. And that chance had come.
Even with the book in my possession it took me a while to get motivated enough to crack it open, but once I did it couldn't be pried out of my hands (I know because one of my kids tried). Yes, it turned out to be really good.
Quentin, Julia, Janet and Elliot are enjoying their lives of royal splendor as the kings and queens of Fillory. As it turns out there really isn't much for the royal leaders of Fillory to do so most of their time is spent luxuriating in their individual castles, indulging in good food and wine and waving from the balcony each day to their adoring people.
This seems like a good enough life to Quentin, especially after everything that he has been through so far, but when a seemingly innocuous outing ends in a death Quentin suddenly realizes that he longs for something more. He wants an adventure; chance to prove that he id capable of accomplishing greatness- of being a hero.
So Quentin sets off on an adventure, accompanied by Julia, a young mapmaker the kingdom's best swordfighter and a ship with it's crew. But the adventure that Quentin goes looking for is not the one that he finds, though it turns out that the world does need a hero and he might get the chance to becomes one.
I was happy to find that the whiny, self-indulgent teenage magicians from the last book had matured and become a lot less annoying. We really don't see much of Janet (though do we really want to?) thought Elliott seems to have grown into his role as high king. But it's Quentin and Julia who are really at the center of the story.
I really only remembered Julia vaguely from The Magicians, as the girl who Quentin had a crush on but who then went kind of bonkers after finding out about magic and Brakebills. Now, as a Queen of Fillorys, Julia is still not quite on the same plane as everyone else, and her strange behaviour is starting to worry Quentin.
With some vague hope of perhaps developing a romance with his past crush Quentin invited her along on his adventure, but instead he discovers just how far-gone Julia really is as the two are dragged away to a place that they had hoped to never go.
The Magician King is narrated by both Julia and Quentin. From Julia we find out about the events that led her to discover magic, abandon her family and former life and eventually end up as queen of Fillory. It's a sad story and one which I had been curious about, so I was glad to finally get the full details of it here.
Quentin, though, is the one narrating the current story and I'm glad to say that I found him to be a lot more likable than his younger self. Perhaps due to the tragedies that he experienced, or maybe from his years being a king, Quentin had developed a maturity and self-awareness that he didn't have before, as well a more compassionate nature. He wasn't perfect but he was good hero material and I was looking forward to seeing where this adventure with him would take me.
I had mentioned that I didn't enjoy The Magicians because it was too grim, but I don't want you to think that The Magician King is all sunshine and roses, because it's not. It's somber at times and has several heartbreakingly sad moments but the mood isn't pervasively depressing as in The Magicians. Perhaps the characters themselves were just lighter, more hopeful and less angsty, but it made a big difference to me in the way I responded to the story.
And the end. Oh, what can I say about the end? Nothing really, without giving too much away. But there is no doubt that I am going to be first in line at the bookstore when book 3 comes out.