Thursday, March 6, 2014

Worthy Read: The Magicians & The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Here's a worthy read that has been on my mind lately: Lev Grossman's The Magicians and the sequel, The Magician King.  The third novel is due out this summer.  


Lev Grossman has created a world both familiar and fresh.  The novel is, of course, about magic - but only like Harry Potter in the most shadowy sense.  Instead of a boarding school for young wizards, these are decidedly adult novels - complete with salty language that would make Ron Weasley blush - about a young man named Quentin Coldwater who is admitted to an obscure American college called Brakebills to hone his magical skills.  The funny name is where the similarity to Hogwarts ends.   Quentin is a bit of a nerd, obsessed since childhood with the Narnia-like books of children's adventures set in a magical land called Fillory.  When he finds himself at Brakebills, he realizes that living in a magical world doesn't suddenly make things easier or better.  Like any kid in college, he makes new friends, falls in love, and makes a ton of mistakes - some arrogant, some innocent, some reckless.  Quentin's journey I find is so true to the post-college experience - that what we learn in class or inside the college walls with our friends cannot ever fully prepare you for the real world.  It is even more true for a magically dangerous world.  So even when Quentin and his friends do finally stumble upon Fillory, it isn't the paradise that he always imagined.  In fact, it might be more sinister than he handle.  


The Magician King is a powerful sequel, broaching the question of what happens after one has become king over a magical land.  Fillory has lost its potency, and we slowly learn the story of Quentin's bitter and emotionally scarred friend Julia, who was rejected by Brakebills and fought and suffered tremendously to learn magic on her own.  Quentin is still coping with the horrors he encountered in the first novel - of disappointments with Fillory, of needing to find out who he is in this aftermath.  The Magician King is about the consequences of living a magical life and whether it is worth the sacrifice.

You should read The Magicians and The Magician King
       ... if you enjoy crisp, sarcastic and hilarious prose.  
       ... if you're search for a fresh, original and terrifying story.
       ... if you want a story with vivid individuals for characters, none of them perfect, but (irritatingly) human  and heart-breaking.
       ... if you have trouble letting go of Narnia, Neverland or Middle Earth. 

But, to harken back to Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it.

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