Lev Grossman: The Magician King (review)

Grossman-MagicianKingUS_thumb[10]Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians made quite a stir back in 2009 when it was first published with its mix of Harry Potter and Narnia and the way it turned these YA stories into some serious adult fiction. I read it in 2009 and liked it a lot. I’ve had the second book in the series on my shelves for a couple of years and I picked it as one of the books to get me back into reading again.

And that was a smart choice. It was one of the books I read on this year’s summer holiday. I read it over three days. And enjoyed it a lot.

We’re back with Quentin and the other kings and queens of Fillory. Quentin is bored with his job as king of smooth-running Fillory and he is desperate for any kind of adventure. So when it is discovered that the Outer Island doesn’t pay tax to the kingdom, he decides to go on a quest. He readies a ship so it’s just like in the Fillory books, he grew up with, and off he goes. Turns out that what he’s really questing for, is a set of keys – and that Fillory’s future is heavily depending on him getting the keys. Only trouble is, that if you use the keys, you risk ending up somewhere you didn’t exactly plan to go.

What we also get in this story, is the story of Julia. One of my comments to the first novel was, that I felt that Julia flickered in and out of it and that her character wasn’t presented in  a satisfying way because of this. This issue is fixed in this novel. We get Julia’s backstory in probably even more gory details that we knew we wanted! Julia wasn’t accepted to the magical school of Brakebills so she had to find her own way to magical learning. A way that wasn’t exactly paved with flowers.

Just like a lot of fantasy novels play with the tropes of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and like J.K. Rowling played with the tropes of British boarding schools, Grossman builds on what was started by C.S. Lewis in the Narnia novels with a nice dose of Harry Potter added to it.  But this in itself isn’t interesting. What is interesting, is Grossman’s way of taking this inspiration and not only making it completely his own but also making it more sinister – and definitely for adults only. And I like that. I like that even though this on the surface is a nice world from a children’s stories, you really can’t trust that we get any happy ending.

What I also like about these novels is, that Grossman is a guy only a bit older than me. This means that he has grown up with a lot of the same culture as me and this means that we have references to modern pop culture like Die Hard and a ‘We were on a break’-moment. As well as a shoot-out to Nicolas Tesla – all of which I really enjoyed.

More than anything this is a book about finding a sense of meaning and purpose for your life. From Julia who wants to learn magic and has to fight for what she knows will give her life meaning to Quentin who has everything he seemingly ever wanted but still isn’t satisfied and goes looking for adventure at the far end of the world.

I really enjoyed going with him – and Julia’s character is fascinating and her storyline is so interesting. This book ended with a bang – it was a very brave ending and I can’t wait to move on to the next novel.

First line: Quentin rode a gray horse with white socks named Dauntless.

  • Title: The Magician King
  • Author: Lev Grossman
  • Publisher: Plume
  • Year: 2011
  • Pages: 541 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

Christmas Gifts 2014

So even though my reading has been seriously lacking in the second half of 2014, I still got some beautiful books for Christmas. Lovely, lovely books that hopefully can get me back to reading regularly.

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My boyfriend and I have watched the Outlander tv-series and really enjoyed it – and it made me want to both start over on the series as well as read one. Outlander is a great series but I sometimes forget how much I enjoy reading it.
My Brother got me this second-hand version of Isabel Allende’s Paula, the book she wrote to her comatose daughter, Paula. I have been wanting to read more by Allende – and even though I’m pretty sure that this one will make me cry, I’m still looking forward to it.

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I also got the final book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy. I enjoyed the first book but haven’t read the second one, so I think I’m going to read the entire series now. And I got the first book in Stephen King’s new trilogy, Mr Mercedes. Not much to say about that – I like Stephen King.

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And I got two non-fiction books. The Danish Aarhus University publish a series of books that introduce various subjects in an engaging way. The one I received is written by Dan Ringgaard is about litterature and argues, that litterature is the art made with language – whether it’s on paper, digital or something else.
Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, argues that there are various ways of thinking and discusses why we make the choices we make as it delves into human rationality and irrationality.
So I had a wonderful Christmas time where my kids also got some great books I’m looking forward to reading to them. I hope you all had a great bookish Christmas as well and are ready for what 2015 will bring.

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Top Ten 2014 Release I’m Dying To Read

toptentuesday-1So it’s been a while since I’ve participated in a Top Ten Tuesday last – mostly because the topics haven’t really spoken to me. But this week it’s all about which books we’re looking forward to in 2014 and looking forward to the new releases is very much on my mind, this time of year. So of course I had to participate. And of course there are lots of great reading experience to come out in 2014!
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki and his Year of Pilgrimage. So the newest Murakami novel is supposed to be published in English next year and of course I’m looking forward to that. It’s supposed to be a bit like Norwegian Wood which I really liked so this is definitely one I’m looking forward to.
  2. Joyce Carol Oates: Carthage. Of course there’s a book by Joyce Carol Oates on the list – there is every year. This year it’s about the disappearance of a young girl and what it means to her community and family.
  3. Stephen King: Mr. Mercedes/Revival. It seems we get another Stephen King novel next year – or maybe more than one. There have been several titles mentioned and it’s all on a rumor basis right now but here’s hoping that 2014 will be another big King year (even though I haven’t read Dr. Sleep or Joyland yet).
  4. Patrick Rothfuss: The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicle #3). I’m am so eager for this one to come out because then I can finally start this series. From what I’ve heard, this is a series with serious cliff hangers so I have forced myself to wait. But now the final novel is coming out and I can finally begin reading it!!
  5. Lev Grossman: The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3). This is the series heralded as being a combination of Narnia and Harry Potter, but for adults. I liked the first book in the series so now I’m looking forward to reading the entire series.
  6. Leigh Bardugo: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy #3). This is another trilogy I’ve been waiting to read so I could read it all at once. It sure does look like I’m going to read a lot of series next year!
  7. Blake Crouch: The Last Town (The Wayward Pines #3). Both my boyfriend and I are intrigued by this series and I hope we’ll get around to reading it. It sounds intriguing with a small town completely shut off from everything around it and with no one knowing what’s going on.
  8. Torben Munksgaard: I virkelighedenI studied philosophy together with Torben so I’m always intrigued whenever he publish a new book. This is his fourth novel and I own his first three. If I could just get around to actually reading any of them … They all sound good – I just don’t read a lot of Danish literature…
  9. Diana Gabaldon: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8). I’ve read the first two in the Outlander series and really enjoyed them. I need to pick up my pace and get this series read!
  10. Jim Butcher: Skin Game (Dresden Files # 15). I read the first two in this series and liked them, but didn’t love them. However, I’ve been told that they improve so hopefully I will stick with this series and find out if this one is worth having hopes for!

So there’s my list. I’ve been trying to google a bit and finding some good titles for next year but this is the best I’ve found. It annoys me to have a list filled with books from series – especially from series which I either haven’t started or where I’m far behind – but these are the books I know about, which I’m the most intrigued by.

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Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished

So yeah, I like series. I mostly read fantasy series and I love diving into a completely different world and explore it through multiple books. It all began with the DragonLance shared world series. I fell in love with both the world and fantasy while reading Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss’ books.

As usual, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. And did I mention this is the fifth week in a row I’m participating in Top Ten Tuesday. And there are a lot of us, check out The Broke and the Bookish blog to see the links to the other participant’s blogs.

So most of these series are fantasy series – but there are other series I enjoy as well. Here’s my top 10 – with a bonus at the end.

  1. Adrian Tchaikovsky: Shadows of the Apt. A wonderful refreshing fantasy series set in a world with insect kinden. The praying mantis are assassins, the beetles are hardworking people, the mosquitos are vampires etc. It’s the usual story – band of unlikely heroes goes against the big bad. But the insect kinden makes all the difference and makes it interesting. I’ve read the first four in this series of ten and enjoyed them all.
  2. Robert Jordan: Wheel of Time. Sighs. Every fantasy reader knows this series. And I think everyone agrees that it’s way longer than it had to be. I’ve read the first four and they are not great. They are okay but I have my issues with them – especially because Jordan repeats himself. Every time a character appears, he looks at his character description and says ‘oh yes, the girl with the braids’ or whatever and then he writes that. Every single time. I can’t really say why I keep reading them but I do. I plan on finishing the series – as far as I can tell the last books in the series, the ones not written by Jordan, actually get better…
  3. Diana Gabaldon: Outlander. A woman accidentally stumbles upon an opening to the past in Scotland, goes back and has great adventures and falls in love. I’ve read the first two and really need to get more of these. I sort of tend to forget how great this series is but it is actually really good and I enjoy reading them.
  4. Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Just the name of this series is amazing. I’ve read the first of the trilogy and it was a very very good book. I want to read it again and then read the rest of the trilogy in succession. Luckily, I own all three.
  5. Lev Grossman: The Magicians. Harry Potter, Narnia… This is kind of a mix-up between the two. I liked the first and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. I have the second one, the third has not yet been published.
  6. Anne Rice: The Vampire Chronicles. So everyone knows Lestat and Interview with the Vampire. And that’s what I know too. I’ve read that one and seen the movie. And then I didn’t get any further. I have The Vampire Lestat and I also have Pandora and Vittorio, the Vampire of the New Tales of the Vampires series. I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire and I want to read further into the series and see what I think.
  7. Jean M. Auel: Earth’s Children. I loved these books. The first one, The Clan of the Cavebear, was so good. And the next two installments in the series were really great too. But the fourth one … The Plains of Passage was just so bad. It just went on and on and on – walking across the plains, detailing the plants, various tribes, sex scenes … But it was clearly just meant to get Ayla and Jondalar from A to B – and it was boring. Still, both Jean M. Auel and I took a break after that and I have the two last books in the series waiting on my shelves and I plan to read them later this year, actually. Hopefully, they will be as good as the first three books!
  8. Gail Carriger: The Parasol Protectorate. I really like this series. It’s steampunk, it’s vampires and werewolves and it’s a a fun, light and very enjoyable read. I only need to read the last one in the series, Timeless. Luckily, Gail Carriger has more books coming out, also set in this world.
  9. Jasper Fforde: Thursday Next. I read the first of these, The Eyre Affair, and I loved it. It was an amazing romp through Jane Eyre and it was so, so good. However, one of the things that made it so good was that I had already read Jane Eyre. So I decided that I wouldn’t read more of this series before I had read more of the classics, Fforde uses in his plots. And that’s what I’m sort of working on. I do look forward to reading the rest of this series!
  10. Various authors: DragonLance. This is series of books based in a shared world. This means that a lot of different authors write these novels and editors are then making sure that chronology and everything else is correct. Or at least supposed to. This shared world concept unfortunately means that not all these novels are of the same quality. I don’t think I’m ever going to read the entire series but I am going to go back and read the main novels and my other favorites from the series again.

And as a bonus, some series I haven’t started but which I’m definitely going to read.

  1. Patrick Rothfuss: The Kingkiller Chronicle. I own the two of these which has been published so far and I expect so much from them. And they look gorgeous!
  2. George R.R. Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve seen a few of the tv series episodes and I think that at the right moment, I will just love these. I don’t own any of them yet but I will!
  3. Robin Hobb: The Farseer Trilogy. My best friend Henrik told me years ago that he thought I would love this if I could stomach it. I think these will be so good – if I don’t ruin them by tears…!
  4. Deborah Harkness: All Souls Trilogy. I own the first of these and I think it’s going to be a really great read although I have read both good and bad reviews of it.

Book shopping in Copenhagen

As part of our vacation activities this year, my boyfriend/fiancé and I took a day trip to Copenhagen – mainly to buy books. My favorite Danish bookshop is located på Rådhuspladsen in Copenhagen and the reason that I love it is, that it stocks all the new contemporary fiction – in English. I am of course talking aboutPolitikens Boghal which is one of the few places in Denmark where you have a great selection of fiction written in English. And since that’s what I read the most, of course this is my favorite bookshop.

So I bought 7 books in Politikens. 6 fiction, one non fiction. Most of these were already on my wish list and I’m excited about all of them.

      

  • Lev Grossman: The Magician King (The Magicians #2). The second volume in this fantasy series, inspired heavily by Harry Potter and Narnia.
  • Ramona Ausubel: No One is Here Except All of Us. A sort of 1001 Nights set in a tiny Jewish village in Romania in WWII.
  • Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Prisoner of Heaven (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #3). The final installment in this trilogy. The first one was amazing. I plan on reading all three together – hopefully soon.
  • Christos Tsiolkas: The Slap. What happens when a father slaps a child who is not his own? Simple premise – but I expect a lot from this Booker shortlisted novel.
  • John Lanchester: The Capital. I bought this book mainly because it takes place in London during the recession. An entire street in London with very different people, yet all receive a card in the mail with the same message on: We Want What You Have.
  • Tom Perrotta: The Leftovers. What happens after a rapture like event has removed millions of people from earth? How do the leftovers react and go about their lives, rebuilding societies etc?
  • Nicholas Joll (ed.): Philosophy & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so many times as a teenager. I plan on reading it again soon – and this will be a wonderful companion read.

Close to Politikens, you can find a small bookstore in a cellar, FantaskFantask is the place to go if you wish to buy comics, graphic novels and fantasy.

  

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter: Prospero Lost. A fantasy version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Beautiful cover!
  • Terry Pratchett: Snuff. The newest paperback in the Discworld series. Can’t wait!
  • Neil Gaiman: The Doll’s House (Sandman #2). I am pretty sure I read the Sandman series years ago – now I’m slowly buying them for myself.

And finally, we also visited a sale. Again, very close to Politikens, there’s a huge – and I think permanent – book sale called Vangsgaards Bogudsalg. I mostly picked up some coloring books and picture books for the girls but I did pick up a couple of books for myself too – one of these unfortunately in Norwegian…!

 

  • Alan Moore: From Hell. Alan Moore’s take on Jack the Ripper. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years. But it sucks that I somehow ended up with a copy in Norwegian!
  • Jasper Fforde: Shades of Grey. I really like the one Thursday Next book I’ve read and the idea of your ability to see colors determining your place in society sounds intriguing.

So 12 books all in all did I carry back home in the train. Quite a good haul, I think. I’m looking forward to reading them!

10 books I’m looking forward to in 2011

Each year brings new and exciting books to dive headfirst into. I love it when you hear about a book and you just can’t wait to get your grubby little fingers on it and just read, read, read. (Although, truth be told, if I’m ever to get my to-read list down to a manageable number, there should be published no new books for the next … 9 years would do it, I think – provided I read 100 books a year…)

Anyway – here are 10 of the books I’m looking forward to this year:

  1. Haruki Murakami: 1Q84 (this is without a doubt my most anticipated book of the year!)
  2. Gail Carriger: Heartless (the fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate series – lovely fluffy steampunk.)
  3. Lev Grossman: The Magician King (I liked The Magicians with it’s Harry Potter meets Narnia feel and with it still being so much more than just a rip-off of these two classics so I’m looking forward to how he will continue the story. It didn’t have the feel of a first book in a series to me so I don’t have any loose ends I would like to see him tighten so this can go in any direction he sees fit but I think it will be a nice read.)
  4. Jasper Fforde: One of Our Thursdays is Missing (I’ve only read the first Thursday Next novel but loved it so I’m looking forward to any in the series – hopefully I will get a lot of these read this year – but I prefer having read the classics he is using in the books before reading them so I think I have some Dickens and more ahead of me first.)
  5. Joyce Carol Oates: A Widow’s Story: A Memoir (I love Joyce Carol Oates so for that reason alone this is interesting. JCO tells about how she became a widow – and I lost my father late last year, leaving my mother a widow as well, so that’s the second reason this book is high on my list.)
  6. Carol Wallace: Leaving Van Gogh (I love Van Gogh – he is one of my favourite painters. This is the story of his death – told by his personal physician.)
  7. Benjamin Hale: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (A chimp who can articulate deep thoughts on art and philosophy and who falls in love with a human… What’s not to love? Definitely looking forward to this one!)
  8. Patrick Rothfuss: The Wise Man’s Fear (The second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle – and although I haven’t read the first book or anything at all by Patrick Rothfuss, both these books sounds great!)
  9. Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Sea Watch (Shadow of the Apt #6 – another series I haven’t read anything of but I own the first three and besides the coolest covers, these books sounds like they could have some depth in them and not just be fluffy fantasy.)
  10. Jean M. Auel: The Land of Painted Caves (I loved The Clan of the Cave Bear, liked the next two in the Earth’s Children series – but the fourth one was so boring. Having gotten up the courage to read the fifth installment yet but now the series is finally coming to an end so hopefully I will read both vol. 5 and 6 this year.)

(Note: Not all the books on my list have covers yet.)