Nar­nia for adults

Ma­gi­cian the

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this se­quel to

ex­plores what hap­pens af­ter the thrones of Fil­lory have been won.

BE­FORE we go into the re­view proper, I must warn read­ers that this is a se­quel of which I have not read the first, or orig­i­nal, book.

This is not a usual oc­cur­rence for me as, like most reg­u­lar read­ers, I like to pro­ceed nat­u­rally from book one to two to three.

But two fac­tors made me pick up this book: one, I was quite des­per­ate at that time for some (any!) new read­ing ma­te­rial and the synopsis ap­pealed to me; and two, I knew Lev Gross­man is a book critic for Time mag­a­zine, and I wanted to know how good he would be as an author, con­sid­er­ing that he has a full-time job crit­i­cis­ing (both pos­i­tively and neg­a­tively, I’m sure) other writ­ers.

Any­way, The Ma­gi­cian King is a fol­low-up to The Ma­gi­cians, pub­lished in 2009.

The one thing that con­tin­u­ally ran through my mind while read­ing this book was how it is mainly set in what is ba­si­cally a grown-up ver­sion of Nar­nia, called Fil­lory.

There are the di­rect coun­ter­parts: Em­ber (the ram) for As­lan (the lion), the Wood Be­tween the Worlds for the Nei­ther­lands, and the magic rings for the magic but­tons (used to travel be­tween worlds). And also gen­eral char­ac­ter­is­tics like hav­ing four kings and queens who come from an­other world, talk­ing an­i­mals, myth­i­cal crea- tures, and a sim­i­lar con­cept of magic.

But while Nar­nia is ac­cept­able chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, Fil­lory is def­i­nitely darker and more real, mak­ing it more suit­able for adult, or young adult, con­sump­tion.

The Ma­gi­cian King picks up a cou­ple of years af­ter the first book, where main pro­tag­o­nist Quentin Cold­wa­ter and his friends fought their bat­tles and gained the thrones of Fil­lory.

De­spite achiev­ing his ul­ti­mate child­hood fan­tasy, Quentin now finds him­self bored, as be­ing a king of Fil­lory is not as ful­fill­ing as he thought it would be. Be­cause of that, he grabs the ex­cuse to go off on a sea voy­age to the Outer Is­land – which, the friends dis­cover has not been pay­ing its taxes for a cou­ple of years.

There, Quentin and fel­low ruler Ju­lia Quinn veer off in search of a myth­i­cal key on an­other is­land. But once they find it and try to use it, both of them land back in their own world, where they im­me­di­ately try to find a way back to Fil­lory.

Those who have read the first book might be happy to know that along the way, the pair also meets up with some old friends. This ba­si­cally forms the first two parts of the nar­ra­tive, while the sec­ond half of the book re­volves around a quest for seven keys that are needed to save Fil­lory.

An equally im­por­tant part of the book is Ju­lia’s back story af­ter she was re­jected by Brake­bills – the mag­i­cal col­lege where Quentin and the oth­ers stud­ied in the first book; her dis­cov­ery that magic is real af­ter the fail­ure of the mem­ory-eras­ing spell the col­lege cast on her; her des­per­ate de­ter­mi­na­tion to learn as much magic as pos­si­ble any­where she can find it, and the con­se­quences of that de­ter­mi­na­tion.

The nar­ra­tive switches be­tween her story, which re­flects a dif­fer­ent, rougher and less reg­u­lated sys­tem of magic than the one taught by Brake­bills, and the main sto­ry­line. Fans should pay at­ten­tion to Ju­lia’s story as, I sus­pect, it will pro­vide the back­drop to the third (and prob­a­bly fi­nal) story that Gross­man is cur­rently plan­ning.

So, did I find it a good read? Suf­fice to say that I in­tend to pick up The Ma­gi­cian soon to flesh out all the quick sum­maries I got from this se­quel about what hap­pened be­fore.

I en­joyed the writ­ing, which is oc­ca­sion­ally self-mock­ing and sar­cas­tic, and is scat­tered with many pop cul­ture ref­er­ences. The switch be­tween the two nar­ra­tives is also well done, and gives a good sense of what the char­ac­ters are go­ing through.

I don’t think those who read the first book will be dis­ap­pointed, although I must say I think that the vibe of this book is some­what dif­fer­ent.

If The Ma­gi­cian is about dis­cov­er­ing that magic and a world like Fil­lory is real, then this book, as men­tioned by Gross­man in an in­ter­view for Kepler’s Books’ blog, is in­spired by the thought of what would have hap­pened if the Peven­sies had not in­ves­ti­gated the lamp­post at the end of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

So, if you have ever des­per­ately wished that the back of your cup­board could lead some place else, or that magic re­ally ex­ists, I would def­i­nitely rec­om­mend this book (and prob­a­bly the first one, too).

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