The Magician King is the follow up novel to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. This review may contain spoilers for the first book so if you haven’t read that yet, do so now!
Quentin had an obsolete sailing ship that had been raised from the dead. He had a psychotically effective swordsman and an enigmatic witch-queen. It wasn’t the Fellowship of the Ring, but then again he wasn’t trying to save the world from Sauron, he was attempting to perform a tax audit on a bunch of hick islanders. It would definitely do.

At the end of The Magicians, Quentin was ready to return to his life of magic and The Magician King picks up again in Fillory where he has been ruling as king alongside Elliot, Janet and Julia. One day whilst hunting the Seeing Hare, Quentin finds himself thrown back to earth with a jolt. Somehow he must find a way back to Fillory however things are starting to go awry in the magical lands. As with the first book, there’s not a distinct central plot and it intertwines with a quest and Julia’s back story that we missed out on previously. I would say, pay close attention to Julia’s story and you’ll eventually get a lightbulb moment where everything does pull together. However, if you found The Magicians a bit long winded, you’ll feel the same way about this instalment.

One of the main reasons for writers to use lots of pop culture references in writing (or in this case, fantasy fiction references) is to allow the reader to feel a little bit superior when they are in on it. Unfortunately Grossman has a tendency to explain all his references which sort of takes the fun out of it. It even extends to other areas such as the naming of the boat which is a Deer Class and called Muntjac. Now it doesn’t affect your understanding of the plot if you don’t know what a muntjac is, so it annoys me a little that he goes on the say it’s a deer, in a sort of “Get it? Muntjac, deer class?” kind of way.

Ember comes across much more of a parody of Aslan this time and I think I preferred him this way. There’s also a lot more about Greek mythology and the existence of gods with a visit to the underworld and a search for a Persephone like goddess. You wait all your life to meet a Tarasque and then two come along at once! As you may know, I learned about this Provencal myth in The Beast of the Camargue and Julia meets up with the mythical beast. I found him quite endearing, soggy and fed up of living in the marsh. I only wish he had a bigger part to play.

If you enjoyed The Magicians, think you’ll like this. As well as the fun magic side, it also deals with depression and isolation. I think Julia’s story and her downward slide made me prefer The Magician King slightly.

The Magician King is published in the US by Viking and will be available in hardback from 9th August. The UK trade paperback release is 1st September so not to long to wait. Many thanks to Penguin USA for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.