Quentin Goldwater and his friends Eliot, Janet and Julia are living in the magical land of Fillory where they are kings and queens. Their lives are filled with luxury and comfort, but for Quentin that isn’t enough after a while. And when a footman is killed it gives Quentin the opportunity to go on a journey, a quest Julia decides to join him on.
What should have been a simple cure to boredom and fun adventure soon turns sour when Quentin and Julia suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in Massachusetts with no clear idea how to get back to Fillory.
Now Julia’s past and underground training in witchcraft suddenly become important. Making use of contacts from her dark past, Julia leads the way to Venice where, after an encounter with a dragon, she, Quentin and two other friends eventually find their way back to Fillory. Their return is not a comfortable one though. They now know that there are forces at work that would put an end to all magic, which would not only ruin everything the youngsters know to be their lives, but would also destroy Fillory. It turns out the quest Quentin was looking for has only just begun and is now very serious. Quentin and his crew have to find a way of saving magic and undo the damage Julia and her underground magical friends have done in their ignorance and pride.
This, for me, was a much better story than the first one. Not only was there a lot more to the story, the main characters got a lot more substance too. It is now possible to see Quentin as a fully rounded character who is actually learning from his experiences and far less self-obsessed.
Julia’s background story, which is told in chapters alternating with the story of the quest, is fascinating and brings a whole new level to the narrative.
I do still feel that a bit too much of the book is dedicated to introspection and description and I would have preferred more of an emphasis on action, however, this is nowhere near as indulgent as it was in The Magicians.
I read somewhere that Grossman is working on a third book in this series, and I look forward to reading it. I feel that Quentin still has a lot to learn and the story hasn’t yet come to a proper conclusion. And I can’t help hoping that a certain character from the first book will make a return appearance, unlikely as that may seem. After all, this is a magical universe, and a miracle should be possible. For now I can only hope and wait.