I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman when it first came out in 2009 or so and just picked up the sequel The Magician King. There was a five year gap between my reading of the first book and the sequel, and yet I was able to be just as into it as the original. It’s a good series. Let’s start there.
The way I usually describe The Magicians is Harry Potter meets Narnia meets the UK show Skins. It illustrates a magic school realistically. Brakebills is an advanced magic academy that only takes the best and the brightest. Just as with any specialized and advanced Ivy League type school, the courses are extremely rigorous and intense. The students are all stressed out and working hard. There is sex and drugs and parties: the normal college social interactions and seedy underbellies of academic life. It takes the magic school experience and turns it on its head. This is no Hogwarts. The book is compelling, sexy, and fascinating. There is a darkness to its reality that is captivating.
In the first book, the characters go through a series of tribulations that result in them finding the land of Fillory, the setting of our protagonist Quentin Clearwater’s favorite childhood book series. There is danger, loss, monsters, wonder, love, and tremendous sacrifice, but the books close with Quentin and three of his friends being crowned kings and queens of Fillory. The second book picks up there with Quentin as a king, but still feeling listless and directionless. It is not hard being a king. It’s a lot of laying about, getting drunk, and eating too much. He is itching for an adventure, but when it finally finds him, it’s not exactly what he had in store.