Monday, November 21, 2011

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King in Lev Grossman's novel of the same name, his follow up to 2009's The Magicians, is Quentin Coldwater. Quentin, along with Eliot and Janet, fellow alumni of  Brakesbill College for Magical Pedagogy, as well as hedge-witch and old crush Julia, are now kings and queens of Fillory.

They're living the life. A castle, a magical world full of talking beasts, good food and drink (lots of drink), big bedrooms with soft beds and tapestries. They're content with their lives as benevolent rulers, happy to go on doing the same thing day in and day out, nothing ever really happening. And then something happens.

During a hunt for the Seeing Hare, one of Fillory's dozen Unique Beasts, the marvelously named Jollyby, beloved master of the hunt, is killed, just after the Seeing Hare delivers a dire prophecy. In the midst of the swirling action Quentin realizes he's energized for the first time in the three years he's been king. He's tired of peace and contentment; he actually wants something to happen. He wants action. He craves a quest, and he gets one. 

The quest takes King Quentin and Queen Julia across the Fillorian sea and to the end of the world. It also takes them to Earth, where they range from the suburbs of Boston to Brakesbills and then to Venice via an underground series of magical portals. In Venice they find their old schoolchum Josh, and Quentin learns--after a plunge into the icy river at midnight to consult with an ancient dragon--his quest is bigger than he thought.

The narrative of The Magician King alternates between Quentin and Julia's travels and Julia's backstory. The latter is dark, disturbing, and details an education far more vital and interesting than that provided at the rather effete Brakesbill's. The fate of the world, we learn, hangs in the balance, and the fault, it seems, is largely Julia's.

The Magician King ends with the action tied up neatly and most satisfyingly. At the same time it ends with Quentin moving on to what will, one hopes, be an adventure worthy of a third book.

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