Book Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

This book was on the shortlist for the Indie Lit Awards in the Speculative Fiction genre. I read it because I was in the jury for this genre, which was a pleasure to do!

I didn’t read the prequel – this is the second book in the series. I got a bit bored after a while, although the story picked up again towards the end.

The Magician King: What it is about

From the publisher’s website: “The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent’s house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.

The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis, and the cutting edge of literary fantasy.”

The Magician King: What I thought

It didn’t really seem to matter that I hadn’t read the first book in this series, The Magicians. I did look up the story on wikipedia and was able to jump into this new story quite easily.

There wasn’t a general plot to the book, at least, it seemed so at first. It went from Fillory – a voyage on a ship for no clear reason, back to Earth, then back to Fillory, via Neitherland. There was a high Narnia factor, but there were more than just the two worlds. A new world was created by finding and using seven keys.

There were some interesting elements – Dragons in a Venice canal, a new world was created, Gods that were magicians (übermagicians) and more. I also liked the secondary story line about Julia. This was a very clever idea. She learned magic from an underground group. But it never became clear to me why Julia was focused on in particular and no one else from her group of friends (other than Quentin).

Definitely a book for adults (that enjoyed Narnia). For me, there wasn’t a clear enough story line, the story seemed to move from one thing to the next. Still, an entertaining read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I got this book: for review from Viking for the Indie Lit Awards.
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 400
First published: 2011
Genre: fantasy


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

13 Responses to Book Review: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

  1. Nadine Nys says:

    This one is on my TBR-list, Judith, together with the first book. I think I will read them this summer. I am glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps the things that didn’t make sense in this book were elaborated on in the first? I don’t know, it’s just an idea.

  2. OOH you had me at Narnia!

  3. I did read The Magicians and I wasn’t crazy about it, so I’ll probably skip this book.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Kathy, I enjoyed reading this book but I am not rushing to read The Magicians. I find it a little too childish for me. I’m not a Narnia person myself.

  4. cbjamess says:

    I had the first book from the library for several weeks but never got around to reading it. One of my more precocious students (7th) grade read it and enjoyed it though I have not seen him reading the second book in the series yet.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Ooh, that seems young, James. I think this is a book for an adult (this second one at least). Not one I want to give my 15yo to read.

  5. I tried reading The Magicians but gave up as it annoyed me so much! The writing wasn’t very good and lots of little things the characters did just didn’t seem right. Glad you enjoyed this one, but I wont be carrying on with the series.

  6. I’ve heard good things about The Magicians (it’s on my massive TBR). I read Grossman’s Codex and didn’t mind it, but this series sounds a lot stronger.

    • Leeswammes says:

      I don’t know *Codex*, Stephanie. I was tempted to read *The Magicians * before reading *The Magician King* but I ran out of time. Try it!

  7. Good book, enjoyed it, good read if you like harry potter 😀

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