Book Review: Lev Grossman’s The Magician King

Posted July 5, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Young Adult readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Lev Grossman’s The Magician King

The Magician King


Lev Grossman

urban fantasy that was published by Viking Adult on August 9, 2011 and has 400 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Dangerous Women, The Magicians

Second in The Magicians urban fantasy series for young adults and revolving around the four new rulers of Fillory.

My Take

It’s such an odd combination of contemporary, medieval, and Alice in Wonderland with a bored Quentin eager for a quest, and he’s not the only one who falls into the questing habit.

It’s mostly a vehicle for Julia’s back history. The ordeals she went through after she was rejected from Brakebills. Her determination to explore and learn about magic. It’s a lucky chance for Quentin when the two of them get stranded on earth…without magic!!

I can’t feel sorry for Julia. She’s so pissy and angry that Quentin got into magic school, and she didn’t. That she had to struggle s-o   h-a-r-d… Sorry, babe, your choice. And maybe it’s karma that caught up to her, after she ignored Quentin so much in high school.

Then poor Eliot gets pulled into the adventures as Fillory acts oddly with waterfalls falling down, literally, and that warning of impending doom.

It’s adventure after adventure, even if some are on earth, of searching the world for the seven golden keys.

It’s also juvenile, confusing, and all over the place with lame, shocking, and WTF adventures.

The Story

There’s not much to ruling in Fillory. You’d really have to work at it to do poorly, and it’s boring Quentin no end. As for Julia. She got messed up when she failed that exam. And she’s only gotten worse and worse, less and less the brilliant, put-together Julia.

The quest seems a godsend until it sends Quentin and Julia back into their own world. One they’re desperate to leave, to get back to Fillory. It will take all of Julia’s skill and connections to provide that chance.

And the Neitherlands are falling apart, for the gods are taking magic back.

The Characters

Castle Whitespire is…
…where the kings and queens of Fillory live. Quentin Coldwater is a king of Fillory. Dauntless is his talking horse. Queen Julia (her online name is ViciousCirce) is a hedge witch with sharp jagged edges who has given up using contractions. Queen Janet Pluchinsky and the luxury-loving High King Eliot Waugh are fellow rulers. Jollyby is the Master of the Hunt and a were-lion.

Admiral Lacker is in charge of the Fillorian navy and is based on the Morgan Downs. The wrecked Muntjac, a fast and tough Deer class workhorse, is the ship Quentin insists upon. Abigail is the sloth, a psychopomp, who represents the magical animals of Fillory. Aral and Bingle are professional mercenaries drawn to the fight Quentin has set up. Benedict Fenwick is the cartographer in charge of maps. The Fenwicks are the most senior of the noble families. The Lorians are Fillory’s neighbors to the north.

The Outer Island was…
…founded by Captain Banks. Elaine is the Customs Agent who tends the borders of Fillory and the five-year-old Eleanor is her daughter.

Venice, Italy, is…
…where Josh lives now. He’s the fixer who took off with the button and explored the Neitherlands. Until it broke. Poppy is his friend who knows all about dragons; she’s a graduate of Esquith, the Australian magic school in Tasmania.

Free Trader Beowulf is…
…an online support group for really depressed people who turn out to be based in Murs, France. Certified. Failstaff, the acidly sarcastic Pouncy Silverkitten who had been a successful day trader, Fiberpunk is a metamagician who draws a lot, Ivy League Iris likes to test people, and Asmodeus are magicians. Gummidgy is a dedicated psychic. Project Ganymede is an attempt to comb the world’s religions and tales of gods for truths.

A tarasque dragon is a whiner while a holy man named Amadour claims to serve the goddess. Fen was the good guide from The Magicians who exists in the Underworld.

Brakebills is…
…the secret college of magic, which sounds rather like Hogwarts. Dean Fogg is in charge. Of the different groups, the four primary protagonists belonged to the Naturals. William “Penny” had been a fellow student with Quentin and Alice Quinn. Professor Melanie Van der Weghe and Penny explored travel between worlds. Professor Geiger can do portals.

The safe houses are…
…where wanna-be magicians come to learn magic. Jared, a linguist in Bed-Stuy, ran the first safe house. Alex and Warren, a wood spirit, are in charge of others.

The Neitherlands is…
…a made artifact which acts as a transfer station, a space between universes. The handless Penny joined the Order which cares for the Neitherlands.

Fillory is…
…the Narnia of the story. It was a supposed make-believe land written of by Chistopher Plover, who lived at Fowey in Cornwall. He wrote about the Chatwin children — you’ll remember Jane and Martin Chatwin who got caught up in Fillory. Thomas is the son of the people who had bought the Chatwin house. The Watcherwoman‘s legacy is the clock-trees.

The Seeing Hare is one of the Unique Beasts of Fillory and can see the future of any person who catches it. More of the beasts include the Questing Beast which grants three wishes, the Great Bird of Peace that can stop battles, the Utter Newt, the Kind Wolf, the Parallel Beetle, and the Unseen Monitor lizard who can turn you invisible for a year. Ember is a ram-god.

Chesterton, Massachusetts, is…
…where Quentin’s parents now live. Mrs. Coldwater is an amateur painter while Mr. Coldwater likes porn and crying. James had been Quentin’s and Julia’s friend back in Brooklyn, before Brakebills.

The Seven Golden Keys of Fillory are what they seek, for they may save magic.

The Cover and Title

The cover finds us inside the DARK cave, looking out of at the lunar eclipse, the moonlight shining down on the placid waters so still within the cave’s mouth. The author’s name at the top of the cover and the title below it are an embossed white outlined in a metallic silver.

The title is all about Quentin, The Magician King.