Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: The Magician King - Lev Grossman

The Magician King
Lev Grossman
Series: The Magicians, #2
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (...Ish...)
Word Rating: B, to use the proper scale.
On Goodreads

Have you ever made a bad decision. And then repeated it? That's what this book is.

Okay, I'll admit, it was a lot better than the last one in that I actually enjoyed it . . . at times. I went and finished The Magicians because I had pride, and then told myself that the book was okay enough to warrant seconds. Eh.

Grossman maintains his incredible ability to play with literary tropes and archetypes, to the point where social commentary would be much appreciated, at which point he continues to screw with them. There is that lovable lack of sentimentality, but it quickly tires one out and the dismal, untrustworthy world just starts to . . . suck, as in, suck the life out of you. While found The Magician King a tad lighter and more sensible, maybe that loatheful notion could have been thrown in the closet.

My main love is Julia's story. One thing Grossman has absolutely down in this book is the narration. Julia's past and Quentin's present collide so elegantly I almost wish something of import actually happened because of it. But seriously. If there was ever a need for the utterance "started from the bottom now we here," it would be for Julia. Her story is just painful to get through. She has to push her way into power because she isn't as privileged as Quentin. The world does not smile on her.

Unfortunately, Julia . . . she's a self absorbed [Insert favorite curse word or complaint about censorship here] and though she's gold in comparison to the unbearable hellish cynicism and asshattery that is Quentin "It's Too Cold" Coldwater, she needs to get over herself. However, I can't help but sympathize with her now that I know where she's come from.

Actually scratch everything, I love Poppy. I love love love Poppy. Remember when Stephanie Meyer wrote Jacob's part in (yuck) Breaking Dawn and you were confused because you assumed she simply had someone else write it? Because the character finally had depth even though words like loam were still used? That's what Poppy is. Poppy is charming and inventive and so incredible. But like Jacob, who Meyer turned into a pedophile, Poppy's fate was doomed simply because she exists in a Lev Grossman novel and her name isn't Quentin "Seriously I Need a Towel or Something" Coldwater.

Thank the old gods and Fillory that there is still beautiful sarcasm in the book. And thank goodness for the rich and gorgeous depth that the fantasy part of this anti-genre book details. The landscapes are gorgeous and realistic and though it takes a while, the 'telling' rather than 'showing' stops annoying you as much. Even I have no idea what the hell Fillory is for or what, and I couldn't care less that Quentin is pissy about being the King of it and annoyed with the sea voyage, I would love to be encompassed by these worlds. If you want a list of my grievances read just about any other review, or my review of Magicians. I don't want to discuss in depth what I hate about this book because the faults mainly carry on from the first. I will say this though: I still don't know what the heck Grossman is trying to say. Quentin is still a wonderful conduit, a medium to express the fallacies of fantasy and fiction without ad nauseam delineations on the author's own cynic hatred of everything that ever existed ever.

And that's the problem. So much is wasted! This novel is so good and so bad and there is no middle ground! It's ironic and beautiful about the literature it expresses and Grossman portrays this notion with deadly precision, but it's drowned out and conflated with whatever aim he has.
"He who completes a quest does not merely find something. He becomes something."
I'm curious to see what will become of this book series.

(If I really had to rate it, I'd give it a "It's Enjoyable but you Might Get Stabby".)

- Marlon

A bit random but, multiple narrators? Yay or Nay? Or Hay?
Let us know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, exquisitely crafted descriptions and characterizations and finely drawn effects are the highlights. In a few places, the plot drags, but these minor slowdowns are worth getting through. I will probably read them again - soon.
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