I finally got this one from the library and I’m on hold for the final book, the bf bought it recently, so we all know I’ll steal his Kindle to blaze through it before I even get close to being off the hold list at the library. I would’ve read this one even faster, but (unfortunately) I had to be sociable this weekend and had to actually do work in my day-job, pesky things.
Picking up not too long after the last book, The Magician King takes place almost exclusively in Fillory, the imaginary world (a la Narnia) in which Quentin and friends now live. I don’t know how I missed it, but at the end of the first book there was a huge OMG moment that I really want to talk about, but won’t until after the jump. (The TV show gives it away in the first episode.) I guess I was so enthralled I did not make the connection to who the third person was who came to get Quentin!? I have no idea! So if you don’t want spoilers for The Magicians I probably wouldn’t read the rest of this response. (Or at least skip to the next bold line.)
So apparently Julia learned magic?! I mean WHAT! I guess I sort of knew this was an option from the brief confrontation with Quentin in The Magicians, but I was reading so fast at the end of the novel that I didn’t realize she was the third person who came to rescue Quentin from his non-magic self-exile! Like I said above, the TV adaptation gives this away in episode one, so we immediately put everything on hold so I could read this one before we continued. Now I’m REALLY ready to get back into it!
The Magician King is as much about Quentin as it is about Julia. For as bad as Quentin found learning Magic, Julia had it so much worse. One thing rang true though,
“The beginning, the laying down of the fundamentals, was always the worst part, which he supposed was why so few people did it. 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.” (97)
And I really enjoy this about Grossman’s trilogy so far. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. Quentin is kind of a whiny dick and Julia is a mopey dick, but when you look at what they go through there’s not really a bright side to it. There are some horrible things that happen in this book, or are part of flashbacks, but they’re real world things. These are things that happen on our streets and in our homes today and have nothing to do with magic. They are definitely exacerbated by the magic, but they still happen and in that aspect the world is more like Brooks’ in the Word & Void trilogy (1, 2 and 3)
Strangely enough it’s making me hat Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a little less. As a result of Grossman’s no-nonsense this is what happened and it’s horrible, versus what little sugar-coating Rowling provides, I found Quentin and Julia to be a little more sympathetic.
(SPOILERS MOSTLY OVER)
Continuing on along the line of Grossman not sugar-coating things, I think he does a great job of forcing Quentin to grow up and acknowledge the fact that life isn’t easy and it’s not like in literature or fairy tales. Life isn’t going to happen the way you think and you really can only be prepared by not preparing or preparing for everything.
“He’d known that adventures were supposed to be hard. He’d understood that he would have to go along way and solve difficult problems and fight foes and be brave and whatever else. But this was hard in a way he hadn’t counted on. You couldn’t kill it with a sword or fix it with a spell. You couldn’t fight it. You just had to endure it, and you didn’t look good or noble or heroic doing it. You were just the guy people felt sorry for, that was all. It didn’t make a good story—in fact he saw now that the stories had it all wrong, about what you got, and what you gave. It’s not that he wasn’t willing. He just hadn’t understood. He wasn’t ready for it.” (396-397)
It will be very interesting to see how Quentin deals with life and magic in The Magician’s Land. I don’t see it being easy and I definitely think it’ll challenge everything he thinks he’s learned about being a hero/adventurer. I did read the first chapter preview in this book and I’m ready for it!!!
When you add in Grossman’s hilarious one-liners, the gritty realness is only that much better in contrast. The top one is particularly current because of the Presidential primaries:
“Janet was in charge of relations with foreign powers—Quentin called her Fillory Clinton.” (23)
“They could have been a corporate board meeting, if the corporation were Random Genius Freaks LLC.” (281)
“Apparently if you’re enough of a power nerd, there is nothing that cannot be flowcharted.” (316)
And the last one is HILARIOUS to me. I must not quite be enough of a power nerd, because I pretty much think the same thing but with Excel spreadsheets which I guess technically could be considered flowcharts!
Recommendation: I think it’s worth the read. Even though this takes place in an “imaginary” world, it’s even more real than the first novel. There are some scenes where you question Grossman’s motives, are they shock value, could it be different, why, why why? But at the same time as it happens you realize that he’s breaking down everything the characters have in the same ways people are broken in today’s society. It’s all just magnified because of the magic.
Opening Line: “Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless.”
Closing Line: “Stubborn green shoots were forcing themselves up between the paving stones, cracking the old rock, in spite of everything.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from The Magician King
“Fillory was a darker and more dangerous place in real life than it was in the books. Bad things happened there, terrible things. People got hurt and killed and worse.” (5)
“We didn’t know she was a magician, of course. How could we? But you could tell she was bursting with some terrible secret. And she had those things one likes about magicians: she was disgustingly bright and rather sad and slightly askew. To tell you the truth I think one of the things we liked about her was that she reminded us of you.” (32)
“Quentin had an obsolete sailing ship that had been raised from the dead. He had a psychotically effective swordsman and an enigmatic witch-queen. It wasn’t the Fellowship of the Ring, but then again he wasn’t trying to save the world from Sauron, he was attempting to perform a tax audit on a bunch of hick islanders. It would definitely do.” (51)
“Here he was afloat in the wild magical tropics of Fillory and he’d stumbled on the only cougar within 477 nautical miles.” (68)
“If this was madness it was an entirely new kind of madness, as yet undocumented in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. She had nerdophrenia. She was dorkotic.” (81)
“People in fairy tales never just figured things out.” (95)
“It was amazing what they would send you through the mail if you had a fake ID, a PayPal account, and a P.O. Box. If this magic thing didn’t pan out she could definitely go into domestic terrorism.” (122)
“A McMansion like that, all double glazed picture windows, broadcast the goings-on inside it out into the night like a drive-in movie. It was summer again, and the summer nights smelled like murdered grass and sounded like crickets fucking.” (144)
“Hogwarts was fully subscribed, and her eligibility had lapsed. Hagrid’s motorcycle would never rumble outside her front door. No creamy-enveloped letters would ever come flooding down her chimney.” (147)
“Everybody wanted to be the hero of their own story. Nobody wanted to be comic relief.” (165)
“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.” (182)
“She knew she was obsessed, but it was turning out that she was the kind of person who needed to be obsessed with something, and she could have done a lot worse.” (186)
“Fortunately Poppy turned out to be excellent at this kind of cross-country dead-reckoning navigation. At first they thought she must be using some kind of advanced geographical magic until Josh noticed that she had an iPhone in her lap. ‘Yeah, but I used magic to jailbreak it,’ she said.” (202)
“Genuinely social people never ceased to amaze him. Their brains seemed to generate an inexhaustible fund of thing sot say, naturally, with no effort, out of nothing at all.” (205)
“Nothing made you feel more like a fucking sorcerer than aviating under your own power. Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers” (259)
“Things had been going so well. But that was being a hero, wasn’t it? For every hero, don’t legions of foot soldiers have to die in the background? It was a matter of numbers, like the corpse in the castle said. Just work out the sums.” (285)
“You know what Arthur C. Clarke said about technology and magic, right? Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Turn it around. What is advanced magic indistinguishable from? Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from the miraculous.” (316)
“Nothing. Blue screen of death: she’d crashed his system. Oh, well., Boys were so unstable that way, full of buggy, self-contradictory code, pathetically unoptimized.”(361)
“But I realized I had to become something. I had to take what was done to me and use it to make myself into what I wanted to be.” (380)