“The Magician King” by Lev Grossman (Week 3 – Book a Week)


Sequels and fantasy go together like hot dogs and grilled onions.  The fantasy genre, which requires world-building and myths, has room for huge word counts and long volumes.

Still, I carry a small suspicion of sequels in any genre, they make too much sense from a marketing perspective to be motivated primarily from a creative perspective.  I know the world of Middle Earth had more to explore than the world of the Transformers in their recent movie incarnations, but it’s easy to see why editors and movie studios would be hungry to make sequels of both properties.  A successful story has a market built in.

I am happy to admit that I am part of that built-in market for The Magician King.  The Magicians, which precedes this book, is as good as anything I have read in the last year.


Judged on its own merits, The Magician King is an exciting, emotionally affecting story that I zoomed through.  The characters felt real and were given interesting things to do. I cared about everything they did.

Even with those merits, this is an excellent book that falls short of its predecessor. The Magician King is about finding the proper path, so it feels unfair to criticize it for wandering around in the doldrums, or suffering through uncertainty before powering toward a climax.  There is gold in the early adventures, the introduction of a swordsman protector (Biddle) for the hero (Quentin) is particularly engaging but, as the story moved along, I found myself wanting to jump forward into the meat of the adventure.

Another nitpick I have is that Grossman employs an A plot B plot technique — switching perspectives as the story unfolds — and what happened for me (as happens with almost all books using this device) is I found myself more interested in one plot than the other.  I was pushing through the part about the magician’s underground to get back to the present and the adventure happening in the current time-line.  In the end, both stories paid off and tied up beautifully and I probably wouldn’t be complaining about either story if I hadn’t had have to jump between the two.

So give it a B+/A-, 4 ½ out of five stars, or the silver medal.  I loved this book, maybe it is so up my alley that I graded it on a curve but, for me, it was just short of great.  Perhaps the most ringing endorsement I can offer is that If Grossman writes ten more of these books, I would happily read them all.





Week 4 – Machine Man

Week 5 – American Gods

Week 6 – Dune Messiah

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