Posted by: markfender | October 11, 2011

The Magician King

Hey, remember when I said the library was currently winging this book to me? Well, they were actually winging it to the 20 people ahead of me in the queue.

But I finally got it and read it. And it was okay.

While the first book takes on the worlds of Harry Potter and Narnia, this one does the Voyage of the Dawn Treader/typical-fantasy-quest thing. Unfortunately, it mostly reads like a revisit to beloved characters from the previous book. Were you always wondering what happened to Penny? Or how Brakebills is getting on? You get to find out! That would be interesting if they had much more to do in the story other than remind you of what happened in the previous book. Unfortunately, very few returning places or people really impact the overall story much. Sometimes their tales are interesting, but they’re mostly there to deny the main characters an easy out.

Interspersed with all this quest stuff is the story of Julia. If you recall from the first book, Julia becomes a magician but not through the typical Harry Potter finishing school methods. In this book, she tells her side of the story – what she went through to gain the magical power that the other characters achieved easily. That story is interesting and well-told and ends pretty horrifically (although it did sort of annoy me that her way around a nice magic finishing school was to find…a nice magic finishing school). The prose in those particular sections was pretty entertaining as well. Julia (or, at least, Julia’s internal monologue) is at times funny, always sarcastic, and generally made for fun reading (And, yes, I did get the Traveler reference without looking it up). And it does contain one of my favorite sentences of the last few years:

If all else failed she had the power of the bathroom handjob, and she wielded it with an iron fist.

C’mon. That’s brilliant.

The book also ends pretty unsatisfyingly. Now, it’s actually written to be unsatisfying. The characters even talk about how unsatisfying it is. That’s sorta the point. But I thought this could have been written better. From the point where they enter the Underworld, I got kinda lost about what was happening. Julia transforms….why?? The keys turn in the door and….save the multiverse?? How, exactly?? None of these questions are answered very well and after discovering the downer ending, I didn’t really want to go back and piece together the parts I missed.

So, if you liked the first book, read this one for Julia. Ignore the rest. If you didn’t like the first one, then this really isn’t for you.



  1. I need a break from the Dresden Files, so I’ve started on these two books. I’m a little bit into the Magicians, and like it well enough so far. It seems like a quick read.

  2. I don’t know whether or not to be disgusted by the arctic fox scene. It was adorable, and then it wasn’t, and then OMG QUENTIN, GET OFF OF HER!

    • Yup. And what about the pervy dude who did that? I can’t imagine that the first person to ever engage in that sort of activity was Quentin. It’s an institutionalized orgy.

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