Bookmarks Issue: 
Lev Grossman

A-The Magician KingThis second volume of an intended trilogy picks up where Lev Grossman's previous novel, The Magicians (3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2009), left off. Quentin Coldwater and his friends continue to explore the wonders--and dangers--of the land of Fillory.

The Story: In The Magicians, Quentin Coldwater was a normal workaday young man who stumbled into the fantastic world of Fillory, which closely resembled a magical land he often adored in a children's book series. Now a little older and wiser, Quentin and his friends Julia, Eliot, and Janet are simply happy to spend their time enjoying the idyllic wonders of Fillory. But Quentin soon grows bored with the situation, and imagining romance and adventure, he agrees to embark on a quest with Julia. Unfortunately, the quest is anything but romantic and adventurous, and when it ends horribly, Quentin and his friends find themselves back in the bleak world of Chesterton, Massachusetts. They soon attempt to gain reentry into Fillory--but will they be welcomed back?
Viking. 416 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780670022311

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"With his sparkling, geek culture-inflected prose, not only do we get to see the sites and sights of different worlds, but also Grossman drags us through to the book's convincing conclusion. ... Grossman's heroes are complicated and tremendously appealing." M. E. Collins

NPR 4 of 5 Stars
"The result is a spellbinding stereograph, a literary adventure novel that is also about privilege, power and the limits of being human. The Magician King is a triumphant sequel, surpassing, I think, the original. I can't wait for the next one." Alexander Chee

Onion AV Club 4 of 5 Stars
"[Once] he reaches his devastating climax, neatly knitting together story threads readers won't have even realized were major plot points, the novel reaches a level of poignancy the first could only hope to attain. ... Magician King is clearly the middle book in a trilogy, but it's that rare creature that bridges the gap between tales and still stands on its own." Todd VanDerWerff

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This novel is largely about learning limits. ... The Magician King is a rare achievement, a book that simultaneously criticizes and celebrates our deep desire for fantasy." Anthony Domestico

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There are plenty of plot complications, character moments and elaborate set pieces, but Grossman seems more confident in his storytelling this time, less concerned with cramming in every cool thing he can think of. ... Grossman has devised an enchanted milieu brimming with possibility, and his sly authorial voice gives it a literary lift that positions The Magician King well above the standard fantasy fare." Michael Berry

Oregonian 2.5 of 5 Stars
"While Grossman's ability to mix fantasy clich├ęs with savvy, contemporary-minded characters still shines ... the overall plot isn't as compelling as the first book. Instead of further exploring Fillory itself and the comforts and conflicts of living there, Grossman, like Quentin, becomes impatient for bigger, badder and weirder stuff." Marc Mohan

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[The Magician King is] a book that often feels unnecessary; a sequel to a book that seemed complete. ... Ultimately, this fantasy tale of a slacker king feels a little, well, slack." Moira Macdonald

Critical Summary

With words such as "immensely entertaining," "spellbinding," and "bravura performance," many reviewers went into hyperbole overload over The Magician King. Most praised the overall quality of the work, focusing specifically on how Grossman weaves themes of adulthood, responsibility, and maturity throughout the work. A couple of naysayers dragged down the overall rating of the novel, but most critics were happy with the story's climactic ending and felt that The Magician King is one of those rare sequels--a middle work, no less--that outperforms the original work. The overall structure of the book, which tells two stories at once, left some reviewers wanting; some felt that Grossman managed to balance the narrative well, while others felt that the story structure became too convoluted. Overall, however, fans of The Magicians will thoroughly enjoy The Magician King.