The Magicians won Lev Grossman both the Alex Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. While this sequel may not be as perfectly attuned to teen readers, his fans will hardly mind.
By the way, when it comes to books with teen appeal, the John W. Campbell Award is a good one to keep an eye on. Given to fantasy or science fiction writers, other recent winners include Seanan McGuire (for Feed, under the name Mira Grant) and Naomi Novik, whose Temeraire series is popular with many fantasy-loving teens.
Lev Grossman may be a relatively new fantasy novelist, but he’s been writing for quite a while. He is book reviewer for Time Magazine and also writes about technology for them. And he has a couple earlier novels under his belt.
Many, many articles and interviews accompanied the release of The Magician King. One of my favorites is this Q&A because it addresses Narnia, Ender’s Game, Harry Potter, and even A Wizard of Earthsea in relation to Grossman’s work.
The Magician King has been out since August 9th. Try as I do to publish reviews the week of a book’s release, this one is more than a little late. Karyn, our fabulous fantasy reviewer, read the ARC in plenty of time — but then reports began to trickle in that the finished hardcover was different from the advanced reader copy. Yes, she got to read the book a second time…
So, thank you Karyn, and enjoy the review!
Adult/High School–At the end of The Magicians (Viking, 2009), Quentin and his friends were off to Fillory to be kings and queens, and it seemed that the reward for their sacrifices was to live happily ever after. Now, it’s two years into ever after, and Quentin is bored. Fillory is a magical utopia; there’s little for a monarch to do, aside from drink and worry about fellow monarch and old friend Julia, who seems strangely altered. So Quentin takes off on an adventure of sorts, while alternating chapters tell Julia’s story. Quentin’s quest for meaning has poignant overtones of a midlife crisis (he’s actually 20-something), and the adventures are a bit rambling and prosaic, all of which eventually fits into the deeper subtext of magic and life, chaos and chance. It’s Julia’s backstory that grants this volume the crossover appeal its predecessor had. While Quentin enjoyed life at Brakebills, Julia learned magic on the streets. Her journey, from lost to found to broken and back, is powerful and horrifying. The awkward dance of friendship between Julia and Quentin speaks to the power of a shared past; they have drifted so far apart, and yet again and again Quentin’s best self is evoked by his compassion for Julia, making this a treatise on growing up. Adulthood means adventures that may not only go badly but lack a happy ending; adulthood means looking beyond oneself. Readers will look forward to the final volume to see what comes after the growing pains. A magical, even elegiac tale.–Karyn N. Silverman, Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York City