Back in the day (like, two years ago) I read this book called The Magicians, which is often shorthanded as “grown-up Harry Potter” and is more or less that. I thought it was okay at the time and I remember barely anything about it even now, so I didn’t have high hopes for its sequel. But then people started saying that the sequel was all of the good parts of the first book and few of the bad and I was like, “Well, if those people and I are in agreement about the good parts…”
And, it seems, we were! If I recall correctly a lot of my beef with the first book was that it was a bit disjointed in terms of story — there were some good story lines but there were too many of them and they happened around too many boring story lines and I felt like the book could have ended several times before it did. In this case, there are still a bunch of story lines but they are all more or less interesting and instead of happening one at a time they are all sort of intertwined and lead to some really intriguing plot developments. So I approve.
The gist of this installment is that our group of friends from the first book (plus or minus some members; I don’t remember who was around last time) is now presiding over Fillory (aka Narnia) and a certain friend, Quentin, is totally bored like any self-respecting young adult. He’s on the hunt for a quest and after a false start or two finds himself on a nice hearty Quest that may or may not lead to the salvation of Fillory and magic as we know it. No big deal.
Interspersed with this narrative is that of Julia, who was absent for most of (nearly all? Again, terrible at remembering) the first book and now we get to find out what the heck she was up to all that time. And it is DANG interesting. I almost wanted this book to be called Julia the BAMF except that I think it worked perfectly as it was and so I will be content with what I got.
I remember being decidedly unimpressed with the ending of The Magicians, though I don’t remember why, but I was very impressed with the ending of The Magician King. I was sure one thing was going to happen and it totally didn’t; I was sure another thing wasn’t going to happen and it totally did; both of these unexpected things managed to make sense to me. Fantastic.
The one major problem I had with this book is the writing itself, and since I listened to it I can’t provide you with any specific examples but I will tell you that Grossman seems to really enjoy redundancy, to the point where I found myself saying “YES I GET IT THANK YOU” out loud at work. Quietly, to be sure, but still out loud.
I will definitely be on the lookout for the (I believe) last book in this series whenever that comes out, with fingers crossed that Grossman gets a stricter editor.
Recommendation: For those who think magic in books is often too easy, lovers of Narnia and similar books, and readers who like a good Quest or two.