Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

A wise man once said, "Never judge a book by its cover." I assume that wise man lived in a time when book covers were plain and nondescript. For me, it's the cover of the book that usually draws my attention, like a lure to a fish. That was certainly the case with The Magician King's predecessor The Magicians. When it came out a couple years ago, I kept stumbling across it whenever I'd go into a bookstore. I'd pick it up and consider buying it, but always seemed to be short on funds so I'd put it back down. After coming across numerous great reviews written about it, I decided the book gods were telling me I really should read it, so I eventually did. And I loved it.

Now the sequel is out and its cover is equally as enticing and the book inside . . . just as good. I've heard the books described as "Harry Potter for adults" and that's a pretty good comparison. Grossman gives nods to J. K. Rowling as well as other popular fantasy authors like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. In the first book we're introduced to Quentin Coldwater, a high school student in Brooklyn who has a keen fondness for a series of children's fantasy books that take place in a Narnia-esque world called Fillory. Quentin also loves magic. He's constantly practicing card tricks and slight-of-hand maneuvers as he goes about his listless existence. Fortunately for him, his talent for performing magic tricks has brought him to the attention of those in charge of Brakebills College, a Hogwarts-type school that teaches true magic to those who have an inkling for it. While at Brakebills he learns that Fillory isn't just the product of an author's mind, but a real place that the author knew of and wrote a children's series about.

The Magician King is an excellent follow-up to The Magicians. Quentin, who is now one of the kings of Fillory along with his friends, (C. S. Lewis, I know) has become bored with his life as a king. He wants adventure, he wants to go on a quest. He decides to travel to a distant island at the edge of his realm to try to add the excitement back to his life that he believes should always be prevalent in a magical place such as Fillory. It's on this island that he learns of the existence of a magical key and his sought after quest has been found. The adventure that follows as he seeks after that key and others, takes him back to the world he grew up in, to the Underworld where the dead reside, and to the underwater realm of a dragon in Venice among others. I doubt they'll ever make a theme park based on these books, but they're fantastic and well worth reading. I'm look forward to the next one.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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