Review: The Magician King

Series: The Magicians: #2

That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.

Turns out, if you take The Magicians, tone down Quentin a bit, and cut the magic school parts to focus mostly on Fillory and adventuring, you get a much better book. It’s still a bit much at times and definitely has some ‘middle book syndrome’ going on, but I quite enjoyed it.

If you didn’t like the Magicians, you might like this book. If you liked it, particularly the second half, this is probably right up your alley.

Once again, it’s got the two stories things going on, but this time they’re much more interwoven. One one hand, we have the lighter (relatively…) adventure story to faraway lands, what comes After, and … back to Earth?

What makes you think what happened to you on Earth wasn’t an adventure?

It’s about Quentin once again seeking some magical answer to what will make him happy–and it’s still hard to read. But less so this time around.

On the other, ‘what happened to Julia’.

She still had her bad days, no question, when the black dog of depression sniffed her out and settled its crushing weight on her chest and breathed its pungent dog breath in her face. On those days she called in sick to the IT shop where, most days, she untangled tangled networks for a song. On those days she pulled down the shades and ran dark for twelve or twenty-four or seventy-two hours, however long it took for the black dog to go on home to its dark master.

Having watched Season 1 of the TV show (going to have to rewatch that at some point), I knew roughly what had happened, but oy. She certainly gives Quentin a run for the ‘depressed smart kid’ vibe from the first book, but at least this time around it feels more deserved. I really did enjoy seeing the non-Brakebills parts of the magical world–the worldbuilding is a really strong part of this series.

Once again, it’s the ending of the book that really shines. The big bad reveal of ‘what happened to Julia’, a bunch of metaphysical stuff about Fillory and the universe, and some weird whimsical bits that made me sad smile. I’m really curious where in the world it goes from here…

“I have a hard time believing that the history of the universe is being written by a talking rabbit,” Eliot said. “Though that would explain a lot.”

As a side note, naming in this series is a bit much at times. I’m … not good with names when I’m reading. And we already had Janet and Julia (and to some extent Josh) and now we have Poppy to match Penny. It’s not a huge problem… but I see why they renamed Julia to Margo in the series.