The Magician King - Lev Grossman _The Magician King_ is a good book. Still, I found the first half to be a bit of a slow start that was by turns frustrating and enjoyable in almost equal measure, so I kept vacillating between a 3 and 4 for it, so I think it ends up for me at a fairly solid 3.5. The book itself is divided into two more or less equal story halves: one follows Quentin and his friends in Fillory as they go on a diplomatic mission of purely cursory import that turns into a fairly inconsequential 'quest'…this in turn ends up having wider ramifications (though it didn’t totally pull together for me…or to be more precise in many ways it pulled together a little too neatly); the second flashes back to show us what Quentin's old friend Julia was up to while Quentin was doing the Harry Potter shuffle at Brakebills.

I think most of the frustrating elements had to do with Quentin, the main character, and the first part of the story. It can certainly be said that he's less of a prat here than he was in _The Magicians_, but somehow I still found him a bit more grating here. Wasn't the whole point of the first volume that he was growing up? Looks like he still didn't learn a heck of a lot from his first series of adventures and was living life in Fillory more or less in the same way as he lived it on Earth in the first book...any wonder he's still complaining? Granted Quentin is supposed to be a more or less realistic 'broken hero', but he seemed to be a touch too pusillanimous for me. His constant whining that where he was right now wasn't where he wanted to be anymore seemed a bit crazy to me given everything he went through in the first book. I mean sure, the human condition pretty much runs on the concept of "the grass is always greener" and again, Quentin is meant to be an exemplar...but c'mon Q. grow a pair will you?

I found the story of Julia and her harrowing journey on the road to becoming a hedge witch to be a much more compelling tale. The Fillory quest half book actually picks up at around book 3 where Quentin and Julia return from an interlude to Fillory...prior to that the questing seemed a little too much like fill in the number plot coupon fantasy that was being followed for the heck of it. Also, some of the dovetailing of various plot elements that went into the quest’s development and resolution seemed a little too neat for me. Everything seemed to work out exactly as required even when it seemed to be going off the rails and Grossman’s meta-textual references to this in the text didn’t make it much more interesting or palatable. Still, Quentin seems to have (finally?) grown up and there was enough good stuff in the story to outweigh the bad.