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The Magician’s Land
by Lev Grossman
Sequel to The Magicians and The Magician King. This review contains spoilers for earlier books in the series.
Once again stuck in the “real world” after the devastating conclusion to The Magician King, Quentin Coldwater returns to Brakebills, his old magic college, and turns to teaching. Before long, though, Quentin is back out in the world on a dangerous mission to steal a magical artifact for a talking bird. Meanwhile, back in Fillory, High King Eliot and Queen Janet hear that the magical land is dying, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. Desperate to save their realm, they embark on a frantic quest to somehow prevent the apocalypse.
When The Magicians began, Quentin was a whiny high school student who spent most of his time moping and pouting. (Well, maybe he wasn’t that bad, but I really struggled to like him.) He showed a lot of growth in the second book, but it’s not until here, in the final book, that he shows just how much he’s matured. Quentin is forced to embrace a lot of unpleasant truths back on Earth: he’s been forcefully ejected from Fillory, the one place he always longed for; his father has passed away; he’s thirty years old and no longer a child or even a young adult; and, perhaps, he really isn’t anyone special and never destined to do great things. It’s hard, which is one of the reasons this book is so compelling – everyone remembers reading books about magical lands like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia and thinking that everyone gets a happily ever after, but you never see this characters as proper adults dealing with mundane things like taxes or rent payments or the consequences of mistakes made many years in the past.
As much as I enjoyed this new Quentin, one of the other great things about the book is we spend a lot more time with the other characters. Characters like Eliot and Janet are finally given something to do, and their personalities and backstories are fleshed out considerably. A new character representing the next generation of magicians, a Brakebills student named Plum, brings a fresh burst of energy and surprisingly connections to Fillory into the story. Nearly everyone important enough to get a name makes at least a cameo, including Penny and Julia, but it’s the reappearance of a major character from the first book that kept me frantically turning pages to see how her story arc would continue.
Not only is this book a strong conclusion to The Magicians trilogy, it’s the best book in the series by far. It is fascinating and entertaining in its own right, and it breathes new life into the previous books and makes me want to go back to the beginning and start again.
5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
2012: Secret Heroes: Everday Americans Who Shaped Our World by Paul Martin
2011: Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy by Fumi Yoshinaga
2010: When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
2009: Vacation: In Yosemite!
2008: Dress in Detail From Around the World by Rosemary Crill