The Magician King
By Lev Grossman
The Magician King is the sequel to The Magicians. While you could probably read and enjoy The Magician King on its own, you really would be better off to read these books in order. There will be some spoilers to the first book in this review.
As I hope you know, The Magicians is an angsty, adult combination of Harry Potter and the Narnia stories, with lots of alcohol, snobbery, and violence. The Magician King is more of the same thing, with four of the main characters (Quentin, Julia, Janet, and Eliot) having returned to the magical Kingdom of Fillory, to there rule as Kings and Queens.
The four rulers are fairly levelheaded and competent, although admittedly Fillory doesn't present the same challenges as an Earthly kingdom would. Quentin, however, is feeling restless, and decides to seek out a quest. Well, a journey. He decides to travel to a remote outpost of Fillory to see why they haven't been paying their taxes. Not that he really cares, and certainly not because this matter requires the attention of a king, but just because getting away from the castle for a bit sounds good.
He and Julia head out to collect some money, and end up skipping across multiple worlds. Along the way they discover that something bad is happening to the Neitherlands, the interdimensional nexus that connects the worlds of the multiverse. Which may very well soon spread to Fillory, and perhaps even to Earth.
On top of all that, a large potion of this novel deals with Julia's backstory, as she learns magic the hard way, without the benefit of a University of Magic. This is perhaps more interesting than the Fillory story, although in large part, this storyline appears to have been added so that a gratuitous amount of violence could be injected without killing the current main characters.
This book is just as good, and just as depressing, as the first book in the series. Grossman seems to have an unshakable belief that a good book involves violent death, rape, and the loss of the thing the hero wants most in the world(s), although clearly he is so fickle in his desires that he will be unhappy tomorrow anyway. I am still on the fence as to whether it is worth reading, but it is wonderfully well-written.
There is a third book in this series, The Magician's Land.