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It is unusual when a following book is better than the original, and even more rare when considering that the first book is marvelous in its own right. In the first book Quentin was somewhat pathetic, but you loved him even so (one of those negative people who is never satisfied, regardless), he was an antihero who yearned to be a hero. But discovering Breakbills through Quentin's eyes was nonetheless magical, and haunting, and when the first book ends you pretty much have to go back and read it again. Book 2, The Magician King is even more all that than the first book, replete with Julia's experiences, and Julia is probably even a better character than Quentin, although her unbelievable constant fury matches Quentin's omnipresent ingratitude and teenage lack of direction. Julia and Quentin are both utterly believable as highly intelligent, unique-thinking braniacs (Grossman is brilliant, in dialogue, characterization, and plotting). Fillory is much more engrossing in this second book and finally provides a worthy contender to C.S. Lewis' Narnia (albeit a raunchy, F-bomb laced Narnia, drunken and drugged). There is a lot of raunchy language, but The Magician King is haunting and beautiful, and quite a read, and more satisfying than the first book (which was quite satisfying, read it first). Mark Bramhall as narrator is skilled and sophisticated (and I keep thinking I'm listening to David Hyde Pierce's Niles Crane, with a slight cold, and a little drunk on cough syrup, but his voice changes and delivery is masterful). Great book, and worth the wait! Art et Amour Toujours
24 of 25 people found this review helpful
After finishing the second book, I am wondering if the polarity of the first book was actually between people who have experienced the spinning wheels of significant depression, anxiety, or other mental malady and those who have not. ( For those who have not, good for you, stay healthy! ) Lev Grossman's ability to convey what it feels like to be a smart person suffering from depression and ennui hits a bit close to the bone, but that is what makes the characters ring deeply true.
The second book is likely to hit a nerve differently than the first book. The result is that, as our anti-hero muddles along, there are plenty of new emotional hurdles to face as a reader.
The bottom line is that I continue to both love and struggle with this story. That, to me, is the mark of literature.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful