The Magician King

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The Magician King
The Magician King - Novel - Cover Art.jpg
Cover of The Magician King
Author Lev Grossman
Country United States
Language English
Genre Low fantasy, Parallel universe
Publisher Viking/Penguin Books
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 400 pp (first edition)
ISBN 978-0-670-02231-1
LC Class PS3557.R6725 M28
Preceded by The Magicians
Followed by The Magician's Land

The Magician King is a fantasy novel by Lev Grossman, published in 2011 by Viking Press, the sequel to The Magicians. It continues the story of Quentin Coldwater, interweaving it with the story of his high school crush, Julia, who learned magic outside of the standard school setting and joined him in Fillory.

Plot summary[edit]

The Magician King follows two story lines, beginning at the same time as the beginning and end of The Magicians. In one, following her unsuccessful interview at Brakebills, Julia returns to Brooklyn. However, a poorly constructed alibi reveals to her the memories of her interview and the world of magic that wasn't available to her. After a significant amount of searching, she finds her way to a safe house, where low-level spells are available and taught. Gradually, she levels up, learning more and more magic, until the safe houses have no more to teach her. She makes contact with Free Trader Beowulf, a group of people like her: self taught magicians with significant psychological issues. She moves to Murs, in France, to work with them, where they teach her more magic.

Julia and the others in Murs, in order to attain significantly more magical power, attempt to summon Our Lady Underground, a local goddess. However, they instead summon Reynard the Fox, a trickster god who kills most of them until Julia sacrifices her humanity to save her friend Asmodeus. The act of summoning a god for the first time in 2,000 years wakes the rest of the gods, bringing back the old gods.

In Fillory, Eliot, Janet, Quentin, and Julia rule as Kings and Queens, and life is good, if somewhat boring. Seeking a quest, Quentin and Julia travel to the outer islands of Fillory to collect back taxes, where they discover a golden key and are accidentally returned to Earth. Searching for a way back, Quentin and Julia discover Josh in Venice, where he has sold the button he had which allowed travel between worlds to the dragon in the grand canal. With him is Poppy, an Australian magician who studies dragons. Quentin visits and speaks to the dragon, who warns him of the old gods' return and the impending closure of the Neitherlands, the city in between the worlds.

Quentin and Julia are able to return to Fillory, unintentionally bringing Poppy and Josh with them. There they encounter Eliot, who has been on a quest to find the remaining golden keys. In an attempt to return Poppy to Earth, Quentin and Poppy end up in the Neitherlands, where Penny, Quentin's erstwhile classmate, finds them.

As Penny explains, access to magic is through a loophole that was never intended, and the old gods, who are effectively just magicians operating on a titanic power scale, have returned to close that loophole. Fillory is the loophole through which magic escaped, and the end of magic will mean its end too. However, the founders of the Neitherlands built a back door through which magic could come if the gods ever returned to shut it down, and it is locked by the same seven golden keys Quentin and Eliot have been searching for. Quentin and Poppy return to Fillory.

Quentin and Julia travel to the underworld, where they collect the last key and where Julia is made a dryad by Our Lady Underground. They open the door at the edge of the world, allowing magic back, and opening the way to the far side of Fillory. Quentin cannot go through as he used his passport in visiting the underworld, and when he accepts the debt Julia owes for causing the catastrophe, allowing her through, he is forced to give up his throne and leave Fillory. Alone, he returns to Earth.

Major characters[edit]

  • Quentin Coldwater – A former resident of Brooklyn, Quentin became one of the kings of Fillory after a series of magical misadventures.
  • Julia Wicker – A skilled magician with a troubled past and a damaged psyche, Julia reigns in the magical realm of Fillory as one of its queens.
  • Eliot Waugh – Quentin's former senior at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy and High King of Fillory.
  • Janet – Quentin's former classmate at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy and one of the Queens of Fillory. She is called "Janet Way" by another student in the first book, but "Janet Pluchinsky" by Dean Fogg in the second.
  • Asmodeus – A powerful teenage hedge witch and member of the Free Trader Beowulf.


The book garnered good reviews from most venues, including Todd VanDerWerff at The Onion's The A.V. Club, who gave it an A, writing that the sequel was "clearly the middle book in a trilogy, but it’s that rare creature that bridges the gap between tales and still stands on its own."[1] A sequel, titled The Magician's Land, was published in August 2014, incorporating the events of the short story "The Girl in the Mirror" (published as part of the anthology Dangerous Women).


  1. ^ Todd VanDerWerff (10 August 2011). "Review: The Magician King". The A.V. Club. 

External links[edit]