by Lev Grossman
It is so satisfying to get wrapped up in a fantasy series again. (Although, now I'm sad that I have to wait until August for the third book!) I enjoyed this book immensely, more so than The Magicians. I think that's due in part to having established the existence of magic and Fillory, and the Brakebills education being out of the way.
Initially, I was not thrilled with the reappearance of Julia (yes, technically she reappeared at the end of The Magicians). I didn't have enough time to recover from Alice's death, and I felt like she just didn't belong in Quentin, Eliot, and Janet's story. She's too sulky and mysterious for too long; it's frustrating. However, I love that we got the story of her hedge witch education. She's heartbreaking, and halfway through the story I wanted nothing more than for her to get all the good things in her life she deserved. Her story was, at times, much more interesting than what Quentin was going through. I hope she appears in the third book, although, if this was the end to her story, I can be happy with that; she did get her happy ending.
I also enjoyed that we got to catch up with Josh. And good for him! He's another character I really root for (Eliot and Janet, at this point, I couldn't care less about). But I didn't want him to stay in Fillory. He really made his mark in Venice, and I wanted him to go back. And, while I'm on the subject, what a dirty trick of Eliot's! Quentin doesn't get angry at him, and it's not explicitly addressed, but Eliot totally screwed him over. When he handed Quentin the seven keys to turn in the locks, he knew that meant the quest was over and Ember would kick him out. He let Quentin take the fall. Granted, I don't think Eliot would have the strength to cope with being kicked out of Fillory, and now Quentin does, but still, it was a dirty trick.
I will say, this book is a bit preachier than The Magicians. Grossman is straying more into Narnia territory. He's toeing a fine line between religious (and I mean religion in all is permutations, not just Christianity like C.S. Lewis) believer and atheistic satirist. Sometimes I can't decide where he falls. But the book has a nice balance of believers and skeptics. I think Grossman is doing the best to not alienate any potential audience, and so he tries to stay pretty even-keeled. The FTB/Murs magicians research and adventures in religion and paganism was a nice (although ultimately tragic) detail.
I can't wait to see what happens to Quentin now. If he doesn't run into Penny again, that would be fine with me. Magic and the magical world(s) has gotten more complicated, and I'm looking forward to what Grossman does next. What if they don't get to keep magic forever? Will Quentin be exiled to Earth? And what's he going to do without all his friends? August seems like a very long way away. If you haven't begun this series, I highly recommend it. For all the issues I had with The Magicians, it was well worth it to get to The Magician King.