Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Magician King

Lev Grossman's sequel to The Magicians came out last year, but I only recently got around to reading it. The Magician King has the same dark themes of the first book, so it's not a book I'd recommend if you're looking for something light to make you feel good. If you're looking for a thoughtful book that isn't afraid to talk about ugly parts of life, then give Lev Grossman a try.

I think the main character of the books has grown up a little since The Magicians, but his mood swings are definitely still there. Not that he doesn't have any excuses: Quentin's life has been rough. But his high school friend Julia's has been so much worse. The structure of the book unfolds the parallel stories of Quentin's journeys between Earth, Fillory, and what lies beyond, and the tragic path that Julia followed after her rejection from Brakebills as she searched for magic in her own world and in her own ways. It takes Julia a long time to find what she's looking for, and the sacrifices that are collected along the road are truly heartbreaking. I always admire a writer who is able to create a character who carries Julia's level of pain. Writing someone like that, fictitious though she or he may be, is never easy.

In the present, the narration follows Quentin and Julia on their unintentional trip back to Earth (they are utterly dismayed to find themselves once again in New England) and the struggles they encounter as they try to get back to the land where they reign with Brakebills graduates Eliot and Janet as kings and queens. Lev Grossman wouldn't write a story as straightforward as that, of course, so there are many twists and turns, old acquaintances turn up, and unique beasts deliver cryptic messages. There is humor too, and it's not always black. In light of the weeks we have spent on systems modeling in one of my classes, I particularly enjoyed the reference to flowcharts ("there is nothing that cannot be flowcharted," according to Julia, p. 316)

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