Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

  • Hardcover:416 pages
  • Publisher:Viking Adult (August 9, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0670022314
  • Source: Publisher

 Immediately following the series of events that takes place in The Magicians, Quentin, Eliot, Janet, and Julia are now the High Kings and Queens of Fillory.  Quentin isn’t impressed with the amount of work he has to do as king, so he decides to go out on a mission of sorts, to the Outer Island, a small, remote island on the edge of his kingdom. Julia joins him on this journey, one that isn’t as “low key” as Quentin may have expected.  The island is reported to have “the key that winds up the world.” 

The key drops Quentin & Julia where they least expect, back to Earth and the depressing world of Chesterton, Massachusetts.  As they attempt to return to Fillory, they discover that Neitherlands, the “junction” point to other worlds, is nearing it’s demise.  The key they hold ins one of many; all of the keys must be found in order to prevent a magical apocalypse.

Quentin & Julia must rely on all sorts of magical and mysterious creatures, including a league of underground magicians, a sloth, and more, to gain access to all the keys and prevent the Neitherlands from being destroyed.

Interspersed in the main storyline are flashbacks Julia takes to a time before she was reunited with Quentin. It is during this time that she partakes in some pretty dark magical behaviors.  The result of these practices, and the forces they summoned, force Julia and her friends into quite the destructive and dangerous magical battle.  Julia & Quentin are forever changed as a result, not necessarily for the positive.

The writing in The Magician King is just as breathtaking and beautiful as in the previous book.  I found myself marking passages I adored; soon the book was full of marked passages.  The reader continues to learn more about the characters they loved an adored from The Magicians, but it is Julia’s character that I felt I learned more about in this particular book. Julia’s character was never really “right”…we get to see a completely different side to her in this book.

When I read The Magicians, I appreciated the characters and the writing style, but I didn’t love the book. The same goes for The Magician King. It’s a fantastic book for fans of fantasy, adults looking for a book to help them get over their depression over the Harry Potter series ending.  It is quite the impressive read, just not the one for me. While I enjoyed this book more than the previous, I wasn’t able to become invested in the storyline or the characters. This is no fault of the book or the author; this series just isn’t for me.

Despite my personal feelings, I do still recommend The Magician King for fans of fantasty.  As indicated, the writing is breathtaking, a style one doesn’t often uncover.  The characters are severely flawed, making them even more realistic and believable. They are quite witty and sarcastic, guaranteeing a few laughs. Others liken the series to an adult version of the Harry Potter and Narnia series. I will leave that to you to decide.

13 thoughts on “Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

  1. I didn’t like The Magician King either – it was just.. it felt too cynical to me (and the pop-culture references were too much, I read fantasy to escape real life, not be reminded of it constantly!)


    1. There were a few scenes that were a bit too much for me, left me wondering what the purpose was. I’m still glad I read it!



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  3. IREALLY wanted to love The Magicians but it didn’t, I don’t know…sparkle? for me. I’m debating whether or not to give this a try…


  4. I enjoyed the review. I for one totally love this series. I think partly it’s because I’m the opposite of what Lydia said in her comment. I have always preferred “Portal” fantasy because I feel more connected with the characters. Narnia was my favorite series as a child, and this reminded me of that love, while still being an adult book. Yet, while The Magicians had a Narnia feel, I think The Magician King, at least partly also reminded me at times of Gaimen’s American Gods, which is another favorite of mine.


    1. Yes, this definitely has the Narnia feel to it, more so than Harry Potter, as others have indicated.


  5. I still need to read The Magicians! I have read such positive reviews of it, it is refreshing to see that there are some people who didn’t love it. I really enjoy this type of book and genre so both are still on my TBR list.


  6. Thanks for this. The Magicians didn’t really work for me either and I was wondering if I needed to try The Magician King, anyway. Maybe not. Thanks!



  7. You phrased it exactly when you said that you appreciated the writing but didn’t really like the book. That’s exactly how I felt when I read The Magicians. I haven’t read this, yet, because The Magicians sort of left me emotionally drained. Grossman has a style of writing that is very good and engaging, but somewhat exhausting.


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