The Magician King | book review

The Magician King

Author: Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians, #2
Format: Audiobook
Length: 16 hours
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Publisher: Books on Tape
Original Publication Date: 2011
Genre(s): New adult, Fantasy

Quentin Coldwater finally has everything he’s ever wanted: magic, Fillory, his friends by his side—he’s even a king, for god’s sake. But after going on a quest to save the magical world, he finds he can’t just relax in royalty. He’s restless again, and only a quest can satisfy that thirst. So imagine his surprise when he does fall into a quest, one that sends him…back to Earth? Along with his friend Julia (who’s not quite the same as she used to be), the two must find a way back to Fillory in order to save it, and all the magical realms, from extinction.


The Magician King is told in third-person POV, alternating between the present (following Quentin) and the past (following Julia). It’s split into four books. It begins shortly after the end of The Magicians, with Quentin, Julia, Eliot, and Janet reining as kings and queens of Fillory. But Quientin still isn’t satisfied, and winds up on a quest requiring more sacrifices than he bargained for.

I enjoyed The Magicians, but right off the bat, I loved The Magician King. Though I was not excited for Julia’s perspective chapters, detailing her life after failing the Brakebill’s exam, what happened to her to lead to her meeting Eliot and Janet. But I took them in stride, and I lived for Quentin’s story. At first, Julia’s chapters were short bursts in between Quentin’s quest. But as the story progressed, Julia’s chapters became just as long as Q’s because they began to intertwine. By that point, I was really over Julia’s story. That love I felt for the book started to fade.

I’m not a Julia fan. I’m SORRY. Not that sorry, but still a little sorry. Like, I feel bad for her and everything she went through. At the start of this book, I really, really hated her. Listen, I know this is going to sound very privileged and hoity-toity, but Julia failed the exam. I understand she was too smart for the memory erasing spell, and she descended into madness and all, but also…you failed? Get over it? She says magic and Fillory was “Quientin’s thing,” and that she didn’t expect it and wasn’t looking for it, but then she goes on to say getting into Brakebills was her “rightful inheritance.” Like ???? Chill out, there, Julia. She even blames the test, saying it’s the test’s fault she failed, not her own. She never really takes ownership or responsibility. And then when she thinks about fucking Quentin just to get information, despite knowing how he felt about her and how that could really hurt him—that made me so sick. I get that the point is that Q is privileged and that its “wrong” to think that only people who pass the test deserve magic, but also Julia just sounds like a spoiled child most of the time. And at the end of the story, I really do feel sympathy for her, and all she went through. But she did chase that life. She just kept wanting more and more and more. I will say, though, that I strongly disagreed with the climactic aspect of her story. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t go into it here, but I will mention it as a hidden spoiler in my Goodreads review, so check that out if you’re interested.

Okay. Julia rant over. Aside from her chapters, I very much enjoyed this book. I loved the quest, I loved the sea setting, and I even loved the characters. I wasn’t a huge Quentin fan in book 1, and though I do like him a lot more this time around, he is still kind of an arrogant dude. In a way, he, too, is spoiled and selfish like Julia. I’d say to a lesser degree, though. I feel a lot more sympathy for Q than for Julia, especially at the book’s end. Honestly WHAT is with Grossman and these super dismal endings? Book 3 better have a happy ending or I’ll riot…

As far as sequels go, this was a really good one, especially for the first half or so. My only issues were with Julia’s chapters, as well as the very problematic aspect to her arc. Also, trigger warning for rape. There is a detailed rape scene in this book, so beware. I found it very, very unnecessary.

If you liked The Magicians, I have a feeling you’ll like this one just as much, if not more. If you didn’t like book 1—well, why the hell would you read book 2? I, for one, can’t wait to see how this trilogy ends…

Favorite Quotes

–“Genuinely social people never ceased to amaze him. Their brains seemed to generate an inexhaustible fund of things to say, naturally, with no effort, out of nothing at all.”
–“You didn’t get the quest you wanted, you got the one you could do.”

My Rating

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