Book Review: “The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman

August 5, 2014

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I read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians at pretty much the perfect time. It was 2009, and I had just started my freshman year of college. I was (and still am) a rabid consumer of fantasy novels, and moving across the country to go to Wesleyan was the biggest adventure I’d ever had. Quentin Coldwater, the main character of Grossman’s excellent series, was a senior in high school when the first book began, before he found his way to Brakebills and real-world magic. His adventure was bigger than mine, but it was still one I could relate to, profoundly.

As any of you who have read The Magicians and The Magician King know, soon after the seemingly miraculous entry into a school for magic, Quentin’s life becomes rather unenviable. Horcruxes aside, there are much darker and more dangerous things in Grossman’s world of magic than kids who grew up dreaming of Narnia and Hogwarts might expect. I was positively thrilled to finally get my hands on The Magician’s Land, an elegant and powerful conclusion to Quentin’s story.

Here’s where, if you haven’t read The Magician King, you should stop reading this review, no matter how entrancing you find my prose. STOP! There will be spoilers! You don’t want to be spoiled on these books! You want to read them for yourself! Turn back now!

Anyway, the end of The Magician King, we find Quentin exiled from Fillory for good, while Eliot, Janet, Josh, and Poppy left to rule instead. Back in the real world, Quentin is friendless, jobless, and homeless, but all of that pretty much pales in comparison to the fact that he has just been told he can never return to the world he’s dreamed of since he was a child, where he once ruled as a king. He goes the only place he can think of – Brakebills. He manages to make a comfortable life for himself as a professor, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it isn’t long until Quentin is fired, and finds himself employed as part of a magical heist trying to recover a mysterious suitcase. Here we meet an intriguing new cast of characters, including Plum, a powerful young magician with Chatwin ties. Meanwhile, Janet and Eliot have been informed by Ember that Fillory is dying, and are desperately trying to scramble together a way to save it.

That’s pretty much all I can say about the plot without giving too much away – you’ll want to unravel the rest for yourself, believe me.

There are so many wonderful things about this book. For one, it’s completely satisfying as a conclusion to the series. We’ve seen Quentin grow from moody adolescent to troubled young man to mature magic-worker—I’ve rarely seen a character transformation as complete and true as the one Grossman has crafted. He deftly spans more than a decade in his series, and the Quentin we see in Magician’s Land has come so far from the first book that I’m…proud of him, as weird as that might be.

For another, Grossman not only ties up loose ends of the series, but goes deeper into the mythology he has created for his world. New revelations about Fillory and Quentin’s world are woven so seamlessly into the narrative that it becomes evident how meticulously the entire series has been plotted. Plus, if you’re a nerd like me, you revel in receiving those kinds of details about a world you love. Even though Grossman was pretty generous with the information he divulged, I still finished the book craving more.

I could gush on and on about this. I really loved this book. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve finished a trilogy that has felt so completely whole, and I can’t even be sad that the series is over, because it was finished so well.

You may have seen Lev at this year’s LeakyCon! He’s on book tour supporting the release of The Magician’s Land, so you should totally see if he’s making a stop near you!

rating5