The Magician King Open Thread

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar Maribou
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    says:

    I loved it so much I’m considering recommending it to people without having them read the first one. Though there were some great *pieces* in the first one, so I sort of hate to do that. But I liked this one ever so much better.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Maribou
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      says:

      I liked this one better also, but I don’t think anyone should skip the first one. Too much important back story if nothing else.

      Why did you like this one better?Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to E.D. Kain
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        In the case of the first one, I hated the last 100 pages or so, because I didn’t think he hit the mark he should’ve been aiming for in that segment (I don’t think you can subvert something properly if you can’t attain it). Also, all of the women suffered from “I have no plausible independent motivations” syndrome, some sooner, some later. Otherwise I would’ve loved it. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t realize there would be a sequel, and so I found the ending frustrating, but that was just the icing on the extreme-disillusionment cake.

        So in this one, I felt like the world-building lived up to the high expectations he set, the whole way through, and Julia and Poppy didn’t just exist as Quentin’s foils. Julia, especially, really rang true for me as a character. Which allowed me to appreciate all the great stuff that was also great in the first one. Like the wonderful way he communicates wildness, and the constant stream of questioning-authority-but-paying-homage allusions to mythologies old and new.Report

      • Avatar Leah in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        I liked the first one better. I found the worldbuilding of Brakebills and Brakebills South to be intoxicating in the first book, and I didn’t think the second book did as good a job following and expanding on that continuity. I’m not objecting the worldbuilding of Julia’s underworld, but Quentin’s experience of magic use, which didn’t feel as rich as in book one.Report

        • Avatar Ryan Bonneville in reply to Leah
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          says:

          I tend to agree. The world building in the first book was excellent (although the advent of Harry Potter, The Magicians, and A Wise Man’s Fear all in the same era is kind of exhausting), whereas things felt a little slapdash here. People got to places because they needed to be there, and… that was that.

          I understand that the MacGuffin-y nature of the plot was (I think) intentional, but I’m not sure that forgives it. The plot of the book is about the consequences of Julia’s choices, Quentin’s journey to fix them, and then what comes after – and it largely doesn’t work. We are presented with these omnipotent-ish beings (and Julia is gratuitously raped by one), but they are ultimately tossed aside when Quentin turns some keys in a door.

          Maybe they’re not actually tossed aside, and it’s all a feint (given that there is obviously a third book coming), but it felt, as I said above, slapdash.Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Ryan Bonneville
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            I didn’t feel like it was slapdash, actually. It all sort of fit into the ‘magic is going crazy’ story line. I also liked how the realization that Julia was responsible for that sort of dawned on us as we went along, though I do agree that the rape scene was gratuitous and unnecessary. Having her survive the attack would have been enough. Having her spared even, for no good reason, would have been senseless enough.

            Quentin’s story strikes me as one of atonement, and Julia’s as one of healing from profound loss. It was interesting that the two journeys occurred almost separate from one another, and without one another’s knowledge to some degree.

            I wish that more had been done with the seven keys. I’m not sure the gods were handled very well (the silvery beings anyways – Reynald the Fox was terrifying). I liked the dragon (reminded me of Wintermute from Neuromancer strangely enough).

            I think that the arc of Quentin’s hero story is not complete. I don’t think he has lost everything yet. I’m not sure if we’ve seen the end of the gods yet.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Leah
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          says:

          I also think the unsatisfying use of magic in this book was partly on purpose. I think these books are about the limitations of magic more than anything (except for in a good battle, perhaps, which was a nice moment). Magic is unwieldy and wild, and nobody – not Quentin or Julia or any other person – is capable of truly handling it.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I haven’t read the book, but anything Erik posts about must be sexist filth full of rape and violence against women.Report

  3. Avatar Andy L.
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    says:

    I just finished reading the Magician King. I liked it and thought it was better than the first book, because the character was able to develop into a more mature Quentin. In the first book, I got tired of all the whining and self-loathing. As mentioned above, one thing about this book that did kind of bother me was the detailed account rape. The way it was written, set up, explained, was actually well done, but the subject matter is so . . . horrific that it was hard to read.

    I’m looking forward to the final book, which I suspect will be out next year.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    Whining and self-loathing, broken magic, rape?

    Stephen Donaldson is all “been there, done that, got six books out of it and four more on the way”.Report

  5. Avatar Maribou
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    says:

    You know, I probably wouldn’t have written in that rape, but I didn’t think it was gratuitous. When they were listing off the traditional sorts of sacrifices made to gods, I noticed sexual rituals (which often had unwilling participants) were left out, and thought to myself “hm, I wonder why he did that”. Oh, because he wanted them to have not considered that part.

    There’s a lot of rape-by-the-gods in mythology (think Leda and the Swan, just for starters), and it seemed “in character” for these stories, which are always always talking about mythology old and new, and complicating it, and pointing out the ways in which it sucks, to have that happen as part of a calling-down-the-gods ritual. Reynard is a pretty nasty character in folklore, also.

    I figured it mostly bothered me because I was all het up from the Game of Thrones discussion on here, honestly, not because it was an unreasonable choice for the story.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    Two days the thread has been up; eight uses of the “r-word” in the comments.

    Is that all that fantasy books are about? Was Tolkein somehow deficient in establishing that the Nazgul were evil by not having the Witch King violently force himself upon Arwen?Report

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