The Magician King’ by Len Grossman



When an unknown author writes a book that does well,   he or she is encouraged to create more books with the characters that the publisher knows will sell. 

Publishing, after all, is a business. It doesn’t even matter if the subsequent series is up to par with the first novel; the publishers know you will buy it, because they know from the sales of the first one that the characters or the story has you hooked.

Fortunately, series are usually rather decent. Usually, when a novel is published, the author has enough sense to plan for the possibility of more books to follow the first one. Usually.

“The Magician King” by Lev Grossman is the disappointing sequel to “The Magicians” (2009). Grossman’s previously reviewed novel was hailed as original and refreshing. This sequel was a serious literary letdown from his prior success. 

While “The Magicians” tells the tale of Quentin Coldwater’s evolution through the magical world, “King” seems to revert to the beginning. 

While the story picks up where “Magicians” left off, Quentin is no longer the sagacious wizard we leave at the end of the adventure.  Rather, he has reverted back to the angst-ridden child he was when introduced. It’s as if the trials of the first book had never happened. 

In the first book, Quentin was another fantastic piece of the magic that Grossman weaved into his novel. In this one, Grossman obliterates our expectations for progress while wiping out the history of his characters.

Not only is his characterization at fault, but the plot is ludicrously simple. Grossman goes from a creative idea to yet another interpretation of the oldest plot line of all time: a quest. A quest for golden keys. 

Follow Quentin as he makes convenient mistake after mistake until the keys are found, the deus ex machina makes its entrance and a minor character from the first book gets her story told in tormented prose. 

“The Magician King” is a 400-page epilogue, and while consistent with Grossman’s enjoyable style, it is entirely not worth the time spent reading it.