Book Review: "The Magician King"

It's not all that often that I like a sequel better than the original, but I'd rate Lev Grossman's The Magician King (Viking, 2011) a little bit higher than its predecessor, The Magicians. Some of the unresolved issues from the last book get tightened up here, and Grossman continues to draw on and allude to a wide range of fantasy fiction for his plot motifs, themes, and characters. It's great fun to read these books and try to pick out what he's alluding to.

This isn't a perfect book; the series still feels like it's missing something, although I can't quite put my finger on just what it is. The main, save-the-world, "quest" plot here seemed somehow too simple, even though twists and turns managed to find their way in; the alternating chapters provided some key backstory which went unexplained in the previous volume (and were, I thought, the strongest part of the book).

Grossman's brand of fantasy is grittier than most, which makes it interesting - that, along with the enjoyment I get from trying to figure out what's influencing his writing, will keep me reading future books in the series.