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
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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.)