Weekly Meeting: The Magician King

The Magician King
The Magician King

TheThe Magician King is the sequel to The Magicians and the second in a series of three.

Challenges:

  • None

What You Should Know:

  • As mentioned above, this is the second book in a series of three.
  • This book and The Magicians are what is being adapted for the SyFy show The Magicians.
  • This book, and much of this series, feels like what would happen if Harry Potter met the Chronicles of Narnia.
  • With that in mind, this book feels more like Narnia.

Discussion:

I hummed and hawed about the discussion questions for this book.  I decided against it because the discussion questions I found were dumb.  Instead I am going to discuss 2 issues: being bored and similarities between magical universes.

First, being bored, which is a small theme in this series and something I have been experiencing with the books (but not the series).  The Magicians universe is not one that is constantly exciting. In fact, most of the people in said universe acknowledge their boredom and disappointment at the lack of stimulation.  Big things happen, but infrequently.  While most authors brush aside those moments of boredom, Grossman seems to embrace them.  Actually, he acknowledges them far more often.  For me, it led to similar feelings.  I often found myself a bit bored with being inside Quinten’s head.  Our main character is boring.  In an exciting universe, he is bored and thus boring.  I would much rather have been in Elliot’s head.

This book specifically begins with Quinten recognizing he was living in the “ever after” part of a story.  He recognizes his story is pretty much over until he finds a new one.  Even then, he rejects an opportunity for excitement.  Excitement happens in spurts and then things get boring again.  This is life.  I don’t want to read it in books.  This has been my biggest struggle with the series.  The action, when it happens is great and engrossing.  The rest is boring.  To be fair, this sequel is much better paced than the first novel in the series.  I can only hope the third will be better.

Second, the issue of similarities between magical/fantasy universes.  I talked about this a bit with Carry On.  Like Carry On, this uses Harry Potter as a genesis, but it is not a Harry Potter copycat.  In fact, there is a much stronger connection between the Chronicles of Narnia than Harry Potter.  The books acknowledge the interconnected nature of fantasy fiction often.

As a writer, I get the point of borrowing inspiration from other books.  This is especially true in fantasy and science fiction.  It can help ground your readers in the story before you deviate from the model.  The problem is when a new universe borrows too much from another.  It’s a fine line and hard to identify until readers start making the connections.  I know I defended it with Carry On, as another example, but that was the undertone for that book.  That universe had been created to mirror Harry Potter in a way people could understand for a fan fiction focused story.  The Magicians King is not doing that with Narnia.  Fillory is set up to be so similar to Narnia, that is almost impossible to miss the connection.   Side note, I am not a Narnia fan.  There was too much Jesus.

Media Tie In:

As mentioned above, the books are now a series on SyFy.  From what I can tell so far, it pulls primarily from the first two books.  It is strikingly different, as it should be.  The books are not structured to make a strong series.  There is too much boring stuff.  The show makes changes to characters.  For example, instead of high school students preparing for college, these are college students preparing for graduate school.  It makes the excessive drinking a little easier to… swallow (if you will).  It makes some key plot changes.  Because we can’t be inside Quinten’s head, they accomplish it in other ways.  The show focuses far more on his sanity, for example.  It ultimately allows us to keep the action going, alleviate the boredom, and actually makes the show far better than the books.

Who Will Like:

  • I think most adult Harry Potter fans will enjoy this book and series.
  • The same can be said for adult fans of the Narnia series, especially those who could have done without the self-righteous religious themes.
  • Adults who didn’t get into either series, but want something adult about magic, magicians, and magical universes.

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