The Magician King Revisited

Well that took long enough! Last month I started re-reading The Magician King by Lev Grossman to refresh myself with the finer details of this magical adventure novel before the release of The Magician’s Land this Tuesday, August 5th. One of the things that slowed me down a bit was Quentin Coldwater, isn’t it always Quentin’s fault?


At the end of The Magicians we left off with Quentin returning to Fillory with Janet, Eliot and *gasp* Julia. Just when we thought there was the possibility that he had become a mature adult in the face of Alice’s death and his own near-death experience, he gets sucked back into his own immature, whiney psuedo-depression – “I’m a king of Fillory and have everything I could possibly want but my life is unfulfilling wahhhhhhhhhh.” For the love of god(s) Quentin, shut up!

The best part of this novel by far is Julia’s tale. The Magician King alternates between the present day adventures of Quentin as he attempts to prove himself to himself (again) and the story of how Julia became a magician. Back in the first novel we learn that Julia also sat in on the Brakebills exam but unlike Quentin she failed the exam and she was transported back to her normal life with fabricated memories. Over time Julia starts to remember what really happened dun dun dun…… How do you cope with the fact that you could have studied magic at a prestigious magical institution but you were deemed unworthy and forced to return to the ‘real world’, to act normal, go to university even though you remember everything? The answer? You don’t cope, you free fall into a deep dark depression and even go a little mad searching for a way to claw back to your rightful destiny.

Julia’s journey is undoubtedly dark and at times very hard to read. Her story doesn’t so much remind the reader of the incredibly dark side to Grossman’s magic, it smacks the reader in the teeth with a sledgehammer. There are a lot of great essays/articles/etc on the interwebs about the price Julia has to pay for power and how that influences Quentin’s narrative. I am eager to see where The Magician’s Land takes Quentin. Will we see any more of Julia or perchance Alice?? There seems to be a pattern of my preference of Grossman’s female characters over dear Quentin. Will Quentin ever grow up? Maybe we need a Peter Pan crossover. We shall find out soon enough!!


A colorized version of the map within the covers of The Magician King


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