After the heart-stomping terror that was The Magicians, the second book in Grossman’s series seems to be almost an apology for what he did to us in the first book. “Look!” he seems to be saying, “it all turns out okay! The kids get to live in Fillory and be kings and queens, and they go on a voyage to explore the other islands and it’s all fun and hardly any of it is horrifying! See, I didn’t want to crush all your hopes and dreams about fantasy worlds! It will all be okay!” And you believe him, because in your child’s heart you still want to believe that one day you’ll be spirited away to some fantasy world, where everything is talking animals and nothing hurts, and you will get to be Special, because even Lev Grossman lets this happen to his characters.
It’s all a lie, of course. Don’t fall for his tricks for a second, dear readers. Everything you need to know about what kind of book The Magician King is can be found in the following excerpt:
“‘This isn’t how it ends!’ Quentin said. ‘I am the hero of this goddamned story, Ember! Remember? And the hero gets the reward!’
‘No, Quentin,’ the ram said. ‘The hero pays the price.'”
God damn you, Lev Grossman. You magnificent bastard.
Verdict: four out of five stars