The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician KingConsider the smartphone. It can be used to stay in touch with people who are an ocean away. It can store an enormous library of books and the works of thousands of musicians. It can show the path to distant lands, record sounds, and capture images. Yet, is it considered near magical or is it taken for granted?

What if a reader could actually learn magic and enter a fantasy world? Would this bring boundless joy or would it all soon enough seem bland and uninspired?

In Lev Grossman’s The Magician King (a sequel to The Magicians), magic and discontent mingle and meet. After graduating from Brakebills, a secret college of magic, Quentin and some of his fellow magicians rule the magical realm of Fillory. This should be the happily-ever-after, but to Quentin, constantly dissatisfied, it is not. Something is missing, even as his wildest dream has come true.

He decides to go on a quest. Not a very dramatic one, but still. He commissions a ship and sails to the Outer Island to collect back taxes. While Quentin is there, he comes across a fairy tale about seven golden keys. The search for one of the keys accidentally (?) sends the king back to the miserable home of his parents on earth. He is not alone, though. By his side is Julia. She is a creature who once was a gloomy woman, desperate to attain the magician’s skills she felt entitled to (even though she had narrowly failed her entrance exam to Brakebills).

Julia has already paid the price for her quest – what will the price for Quentin’s quest be?

The Magician King is a journey to the heart of darkness of the fantasy genre. It is in part a tale of a desperate need to belong and the search for meaning. Lev Grossman may not be the heir of C. S. Lewis (as he is sometimes described), but he is certainly an author for our time.

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