Fiction Friday: Grossman’s “The Magicians” sets the stage for “The Magician King”

A few weeks ago I discovered that the sequel to The Magicians (by Lev Grossman), The Magician King, was coming out this week. I had The Magicians on my bookshelf for quite some time, so I decided it was time to give it a go. Before starting it, I discovered that many reviews compare it to an adult version of both the Harry Potter books and The Chronicles of Narnia. As a fan of both, I was immediately intrigued. The Magicians sets the stage for a whole new world and is, without a doubt, Grossman’s best work so far, trumping his earlier fantasy novels Warp (1997) and Codex (2004).

Quentin, a 17 year old boy about to finish high school, one day finds himself in Brakebills, a college of magic. He passes a series of tests and is allowed to attend the school. Quentin goes through five years of magic schooling and finally graduates. He and his friends discover another world and go on a quest to destroy an out of control beast.

Quentin is definitely no innocent Harry Potter. He’s an unhappy kid in his late teens/early twenties who uses foul language, drinks heavily and is sexually active. Magic does not live up to his high expectations. The reader gets to see Quentin at his lowest points and then sees how he climbs onward to become a man, instead of just a silly boy. He doesn’t quite become a man in this book, but the stage is set for the sequel.

The most important thing to remember is that while on the surface it is reminiscent of the Harry Potter books and The Chronicles of Narnia, they are by no means the same when you dig a little bit deeper. I feel like Grossman almost gives you a taste of these other adventure/fantasy books and then immediately dashes all thinking that they are the same. For example, at the beginning of Quentin’s time at Brakebills he has a male (Penny) and a female (Alice) best friend. Remind you of another adventure story with a trio of friends? But, just pages later you discover that Alice is extremely shy and has had a horrifying past, and the three of them do not stay friends for long. I enjoyed getting those small tastes of the similarities and then having Grossman turn the tables completely. I couldn’t put this book down.

I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars if there was some sort of scale here, but I am really excited for where the next book is going. It is possible to see how, now that Quentin has matured, The Magician King is set up to flourish and be a very exciting adventure in Fillory.

What did you think of The Magicians? Has anyone finished The Magician King yet? I just started Chapter One. What did you think? (P.S. No spoilers, please!)

— Kristen B.

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