Friday, 6 March 2015

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Melissa has gotten the hang of getting me to read books she wants me to read - putting the first book in the series right into my hands, followed shortly by the second book. This is the way to do it. Otherwise, it goes on a list and languishes there for a long while. Not that I won't get to it eventually, but I have so many lists. (More than fifteen at last count.)

So I get further into this series painlessly, and I'm still very much enjoying it. That being said, it took me longer to really get into this book. With the first one, I hooked into what Grossman was trying to say from nearly the first page, and the whole book built on that with what seemed like effortless grace, but probably came from a whole lot of damned hard work.

This time, I read it, but I wasn't really grabbed until we were halfway through. I think Quentin's ennui for the first half of the book infected me, and while he was halfheartedly looking for a quest and a purpose, the book meandered. I don't know if it's just that, though - it's not like the first book didn't meander too. I just wasn't as into it, although I still enjoyed it.

But then the midpoint comes, and Quentin and Julia are somewhere they don't want to be and trying desperately to return to their thrones. Half the chapters are short looks at Julia's journey, and it took me a while to figure out what I thought about those. I ended up liking them a lot - it was a slow burn towards a heartbreaking payoff. We know something has gone terribly wrong, but not what. At one point, everything started to seem to go well for her, and that just raised the tension - what could have wrecked the new family she'd found?

That, and the tension being turned up on the main characters, drew me in again after the half-way point, and started to be accompanied more with the ideas about growing up and what it means, the world and purpose and how to find one.

When we find out what happened to Julia, it's upsetting, but not gratuitous. It made me uncomfortable, made me wonder if it was a good move, but the more I thought, the more I ended up appreciating it. We see the aftermath for so long, without seeing what it's the aftermath from, which allows us to see her without the lens that knowing would have brought. But knowing brings it into perspective, the way she's stuck between who she was and who she will be, not knowing how to get to either.

Interesting. I am rarely struck by quotes, but it does happen. There was one in this book, but when I go looking on Goodreads, it's not one that was pulled out by anyone else as notable. Well, luckily I haven't given the book back yet....

It's from near the end, when the Lady appears, and it is:

"Everything will be all right, She seemed to say, and whatever is not, we will mourn."

That's what I needed to hear, right now, right when even my family motto of "Things Will Work Out" seemed to not quite offer the comfort it has in the past. I needed that addition, the recognition that sometimes, things won't be all right. But even then, there is mourning, there is letting go, there is something after.

The ending is so strong, about being a hero. Howe being a hero often means, not getting the glory, but getting shafted. And doing it anyway. I may not have been grabbed by the beginning, but man, does this end strong.

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