It’s been said before, and it’s worth repeating: If you’re a grownup Harry Potter fan, New York Times best-selling author (and Time book critic) Lev Grossman is the new J.K. Rowling. In the wake of his triumphant debut The Magicians, this cutting-edge sequel does not disappoint.
The Magician King drops its readers back off in Fillory, the enchanted land that exists just outside the boundaries of reality. Quentin has been made King, with his loyal friends Eliot and Janet joining him on the throne (along with Julia, who was rejected from Brakebills School of Magical Pedagogy). Despite his lackadaisical days of leisure and rule, Quentin feels dissatisfied. However, when a recreational hunting trip in search of The Questing Hare takes the life of one of his own subjects, Quentin unexpectedly finds himself on the journey he had been searching for.
He sets out with the tempestuous Julia to find out what, exactly, is bringing harm to their kingdom. Armed with an enchanted ship and a vigilant crew, the two set sail for the outer boundaries of Fillory, only to find themselves thrust back into reality, on the doorstep of Quentin’s parents’ house. Here in Massachusetts, the King no longer reigns supreme and it is Julia—whose black magic skills were painfully earned on the streets—who must return them to Fillory in order to save it.
Grossman masterfully weaves Quentin’s narration of ennui with Julia’s tale of how she spent the years that the others were at Brakebills. It was a difficult time that included a nervous breakdown and a life in underground houses with magicians practicing their craft off the grid. Grossman perfectly gets to the core of his magicians’ emotions: frustration, desire, omnipotence and loneliness. While Quentin is on the search to become the hero, the author gently reminds his readers that the journey truly is the destination, and that in the end, not all men (or women) are destined to save the day.
The Magician King is one suspenseful novel that sucks you in and spits you out into a world where ships sail on sand, rabbits rhyme and fulfillment lies just out of reach.