Review: THE MAGICIAN’S LAND by Lev Grossman (Penguin/Arrow)

GrossmanL-M3-MagiciansLandUSA most satisfying conclusion to The Magicians trilogy

Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young undergraduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory — but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrificing everything.

The Magician’s Land is an intricate thriller, a fantastical epic, and an epic of love and redemption that brings the Magicians trilogy to a magnificent conclusion, confirming it as one of the great achievements in modern fantasy. It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.

I left this for far longer than I intended: I thoroughly enjoyed both of the previous books in the series, The Magicians and The Magician KingThe Magician’s Land is a great, gripping conclusion, and exceeded my high expectations. This is a must-read trilogy for all fans of fantasy.

I have tried to avoid all spoilers, so this review is quite vague…

All of the returning characters have grown, each of them changing with their experiences. Quentin remains… well, not the most heroic of heroes: he’s rather self-involved, and is aimlessly bouncing through life back on Earth. He’s still pining for Fillory, but is making do with a position teaching back at Brakebills. Along the way, he meets precocious and talented Plum, and together they start on a path towards the impressive ending. They also go on a magical heist. Meanwhile, back in Fillory, the remaining Kings and Queens of the magical land are alternately settling down and preparing to breed, or getting restless. Grossman fills us in on some events that have taken place in between The Magician King and The Magician’s Land, some of which were pretty startling.

GrossmanL-3-MagiciansLandUKPBOf course, through the lens of his characters’ experiences we learn more about Fillory itself. The trilogy has been a wonderful examination and subversion of some classic fantasy tropes — from the Narnia-esque nature of Fillory, to the traditional quest elements (not to mention gods, monsters and talking animals), Grossman plays with the genre in a way that is insightful as well as respectful, and clearly comes from a place of fondness. The ending could have seemed overblown, but I thought it was entirely fitting, and deftly handled. (Could I be more vague? Yes. Just read the novel.)

I think there was only one thing about the novel that I didn’t like, but it’s minor: Grossman’s fondness for the word “literally”, which he seemed to use only in instances when it was entirely unnecessary. Apart from this, though, Grossman’s writing is excellent — his prose expertly crafted, often witty and sometimes even poetic, he pulls us through the story. It was very hard to put this novel down.

Overall, The Magician’s Land was an excellent conclusion to one of the best fantasy trilogies of the past few years. It wraps up some major plot points (though not too neatly), offers a big denouement, and leaves the reader with a satisfied feeling. There were a couple of major events involving Julia from The Magician King that faded surprisingly from view (only a couple of casual mentions), which surprised me.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the first novel, The Magicians, then I strongly suggest you pick it up ASAP. A great novel and series, The Magicians Trilogy is very highly recommended indeed.


Also on CR: Interview with Lev Grossman (2012); Reviews of The Magicians and The Magician King

The Magician’s Land is published in North America by Penguin, and in the UK by Arrow.

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