I was a little hesitant about reading this book, because although I liked the second book I was pretty iffy on the first one, and trilogies are so hard to predict. But still, as soon as I saw it show up on my galley list, I requested the heck out of it, so clearly I had high hopes.
The book starts off with my faaavorite character, Quentin, having seemingly recovered from the events that made me so happy at the end of the last book but ready to get into some more trouble. He’s shadily hanging out at a shady bookstore (the best kind), and we soon learn that he and a handful of other magician-types are there to try for a place on an Ocean’s Eleven-style crew, though it is unclear at first exactly what ability everyone has that makes them suitable for stealing the MacGuffin. The crew works together to prepare for the heist, but of course the heist happens earlier than planned and things go very very wrong. In the meantime, we find out what happened to Quentin between the last book and this new job and also find out some fascinating facts about Quentin’s new pal, Plum.
Quentin’s story trades off with the story of Fillory, where all of our other kings and queens are still reigning. Fillory’s story this go-round starts off with a strange and quickly won war and continues with the discovery that Fillory is dying and only an Epic Quest has any chance of saving it. Eventually the two storylines combine and Quentin helps save Fillory and then a thing happens that I just don’t even want to talk about because srsly.
Overall it was a decent book. I liked it a little better than I liked The Magicians, though both of them suffer from a surfeit of storylines. The heist storyline is actually pretty fun, although its resolution is a bit odd, Plum’s adventure through Brakebills is awesome and terrifying, and Janet’s stories from her solo queen days are things I would have liked to see actually happening rather than retold but I’ll take them. But so many of the other storylines were just ennnhh and the one with Alice made me both baffled and a bit angry.
Luckily Grossman is the kind of writer, like Terry Pratchett or Jasper Fforde, where half the fun is seeing what kind of quotable quotes he’ll come up with next. He’s always ready with a great line about fantasy stories or libraries or being a twenty-something, and there were plenty of lovely and amusing sentences throughout to help take my mind off the irritating parts of the plot. I’ll definitely be watching for more from Grossman in the future; maybe if he can get away from this particular story and character I’ll enjoy his work more.
Recommendation: For those who have read the rest of the series and feel compelled by this book’s existence to pick it up. But definitely don’t start here!