If you haven’t read the review of the first book, or the actual first book, you might not want to read this review if you want to avoid plot spoilers. Otherwise, please continue!
This book takes place two Fillorian years after the last book, well into the reign of High King Eliot, King Quentin, Queen Janet, and Queen Julia. They had all become complacent, fat, and happy …all except Quentin. Life was too easy, too safe, too boring, so after gathering everyone they decided to go looking for the Questing Hare. They came across the Hare that led them to a clearing with one of the clock trees common to Fillory. The only catch was the clock tree was blowing in a crazy wind …that no one else could feel and that had no effect on the surrounding area. The knight they brought with them captured the Questing Hare and seconds later dropped dead. Instead of spurning them on to learn the truth about everything, it spooked Quentin so badly he decided being a lazy King was better – he had gotten his happily ever after and was being reminded not to rock the boat.
Instead, he decided to check one of the outlying islands that were behind on their Kingdomly Dues. He holds a medieval tourney to decide who will be his Royal Guardian, and then on his way to the island, finds a crashed ship he wants to rebuild. After all these side tracks, he is finally on his way and comes across a story of Seven magical keys. Unable to turn away from a Quest so neatly packaged for him he travels to the next furthest island to find it. The golden key was literally handed to him, but it had one catch …the doorway it opened sent him on a one-way journey home …to earth.
This is where the book got a little odd. The meat of the book is literally Quentin and Julia trying to get back to Fillory. It seemed weird that after figuring out this cool Quest, they go and do something else. But, Grossman doesn’t write anything without purpose. The earth journey, on top of being a lesson to Quentin (about choosing quests, and being given the quests you need), shows us more of the history of Plover and the Chatwin children, what happened to Julia when everyone was in school, and broadens the world Grossman is developing. Dragons in a river in Italy? Magic safehouses in the states. Magical transporting board games. You bet.
One thing I started to kind of notice with Quentin’s stories and Julia’s stories, is, they’re hard to read. But that is because you are reading the point of view of a depressed suicidal and a recovering addict. Quentin’s story is truly the story of depression. It never goes away, and likes to creep up at the weirdest time. You can be the happiest you’ve ever been in your entire life and it will come back. You can medicate and go to therapy, but it is an uphill battle. Quentin getting his happily-ever-after and still not being happy shows that. Same as how getting into magic school and proving he wasn’t crazy didn’t cure his depression. Julia became addicted to proving magic was real, and in the end, more of less became addicted to magic. She even has an arc where she swears off magic, following a long path of healing, only to stumble upon a magical safehouse. She hints at horrible things she did for magic, and because of magic, and all her chapters read like an AA/NA meeting (I did a lot of volunteer work for them and have talked to a lot of people of different walks of life, which is why her chapters were so hard to read, I’d literally heard it all before from people I knew).
This one is a bit harder to get through, the “trying to get back to Fillory” part really drags on. But in the end, it is still a great book with finally non-perfect characters. Especially now with that TERF-Twat showing her true colours, this is a perfect series to scratch that magical school itch.