The Magician King by Lev Grossman

“Careful what you hunt,” Julia said, “lest you catch it.”

Quentin loved it too, but he was restless. He was looking for something else. He didn’t know what it was.

You really knew you were in a magical fantasy otherworld when a beautiful woman wearing a skimpy dress made of leaves suddenly jumped out of a tree.

He liked it that she wasn’t quite all right and she didn’t care who knew it.

“Son of a bitch,” Dauntless said. “He caught it.” Dauntless was a talking horse. She just didn’t talk much.

Quentin called her Fillory Clinton.

The others had all but given up on trying to make themselves useful, but Quentin couldn’t quite let it go. Maybe that was what had been nagging at him, as he stood on the edge of that meadow in the woods. There must be something real somewhere out there, but he could never quite seem to get his hands on it.

And she had those things that one likes about magicians: she was disgustingly bright and rather sad and slightly askew.

“You always did like to make things as hard as possible on yourself.”

He was sarcastic and spookily smart and, on some level, basically a kind person who just needed a ton of therapy and maybe some mood-altering drugs.

She had nerdophrenia. She was dorkotic.

“I’m losing it. It’s losing me. It’s going away.”

That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.

His hair—cut your fucking hair already, you’re not Alan Rickman—was lank.

And if Middle Earth was real, that meant a lot of other things were probably real: lady elves and lembas wafers and pipe-weed and Eru Ilúvatar knew what else.

“And you know what’s real? Teletubbies! I know, right? Crazy, crazy stuff.”

Supposedly the Thames dragon wrote most of Pink Floyd’s stuff. At least after Syd Barrett left. But there’s no way to prove it.

Beowulf dragons, Tolkien dragons, Dungeons & Dragons dragons.

Somehow in the back of his mind he’d vaguely thought that the dragon might want to be his friend, and they would fly around the world solving mysteries together.

Welcome to Facelessbook: an antisocial network.

I would ditch Fillory in a red-hot minute for that shit.

But the lesson of the golden key seemed pretty clear to him. It was this: you’ve already won the game, so quit playing.

“I won’t lie to you, Quentin. I looked magnificent.”

You didn’t get the quest you wanted, you got the one you could do.

That was the hard part, accepting that you didn’t get to choose which way you went.

Magic: it was what happened when the mind met the world, and the mind won for a change.

“I’m sorry, where did you think you were, motherfucker? Connecticut?”

He wanted his life to be exciting and important and to mean something.

He was afraid of nothing except losing momentum.

Enough thinking. Sometimes it felt like all he did was think, and all other people did was act. He was going to do the other thing for a while. See how that felt.

It would leave him with too little juice for a fight. But on the other hand, huge points for style. Nothing made you feel more like a fucking sorcerer than aviating under your own power. Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers.

Poppy was right, that time on Earth, it had been an adventure after all. It wasn’t just blundering around, it was the buildup to this. And this was living. He would live like this from now on. “This is me,” he whispered. “This is me.”

Screw swords. A magician doesn’t need a sword. A magician doesn’t need anything but what’s inside him. All he had to do was be who he was: the Magician King.

He’d crashed through a shared wall into an adjoining story.

It was tiring work, being a hero.

She could barely even remember what it felt like to be where she belonged, on the same side of the glass as everybody else.

But you didn’t forget that kind of happiness. Something that bright leaves a permanent afterimage on your brain.

Everything would simply be what it was and nothing else.

All there would be was what you could see. What you felt and thought, all the longing and desire in your heart and mind, would count for nothing. With magic you could make those feelings real. They could change the world.

Apparently if you’re enough of a power nerd, there is nothing that cannot be flowcharted.

You had to face yourself and deal with your shit, that’s how you got somewhere.

Everything will be all right, She seemed to say, and whatever is not, we will mourn.

Maybe it was all a game, that got crumpled up and thrown away at the end, but while you were here it was real.

Julia was still Julia, but the anger, the sense that she was violently at odds with the world over some crucial point, was gone.

But I realized I had to become something. I had to take what was done to me and use it to make myself into what I wanted to be.

“It’s what you want, Quentin. It’s everything you’re looking for. It is the adventure of all adventures.”

This, now, this stopped him. He’d known that adventures were supposed to be hard. He’d understood that he would have to go a long way and solve difficult problems and fight foes and be brave and whatever else. But this was hard in a way he hadn’t counted on. You couldn’t kill it with a sword or fix it with a spell. You couldn’t fight it. You just had to endure it, and you didn’t look good or noble or heroic doing it. You were just the guy people felt sorry for, that was all. It didn’t make a good story—in fact he saw now that the stories had it all wrong, about what you got, and what you gave. It’s not that he wasn’t willing. He just hadn’t understood. He wasn’t ready for it.

It was good to punch something and feel it break.

Nothing like a brush with death to take your mind off your troubles.

It was all crashing in on him now. He’d thought he’d known what his future looked like, but he’d been mistaken. His life would be something else now. He was starting over, only he didn’t think he had the strength to start over. He didn’t know if he could stand up.

There was something comforting about their in-between-ness. They were nowhere, and as such they relieved you of the burden of being anywhere in particular. They were a good place to be miserable in.

He had finished his quest, and it had cost him everything and everyone he’d done it for.

It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.