Harry Plotter

Lev Grossman's The Magician King is clearly meant as the second book of a trilogy, with all that that entails, both good and bad. Ostensibly, it's two stories interwoven into one. The first deals with Quentin Coldwater, who found his way into the fantasy land of Fillory in The Magicians, and is now growing bored of ruling it. He sets out on a minor quest that quickly develops into a journey with world-shattering repercussions. He's joined by his fellow ruler Julia, and the second chunk of the book details her rise to magical power, an accomplishment much harder-earned than Quentin's education at a fancy academy.

The book tackles its big themes very well, from the prices we pay for wish fulfillment to people's inability to enjoy their station in life, no matter how exalted it is. Once it gets down into the details, though, some problems bubble to the surface.

Quentin is supposed to be an incredibly gifted magician, but his powers wane for no reason when the circumstances call for him to be in peril. Characters are introduced, then brutally dispatched in order to provoke an emotional response that isn't entirely earned. Quentin's quest shifts violently in setting and tone half a dozen times, with not enough connective tissue to tie it all together.

It's rare that the second book in a trilogy can stand alone as an impressive work, and I'm afraid this one is no exception. Still, I'm sticking with Quentin and Co. If nothing else, The Magician King nicely raises the stakes for the next book to drive home.

The Magician King: B-


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