Review – The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

magicians land by lev grossmanWhere did I get this book: eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: Out Now

The stunning conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy

Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. 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. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex—and far more dire—than anyone had envisioned.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers buried secrets and hidden evils and ultimately the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create a magical utopia. But all roads lead back to Fillory, where Quentin must face his fears and put things right or die trying.

The Magician’s Land is an intricate and fantastical thriller, 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.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*

The entire Magicians trilogy has been described as a college-age Hogwarts. There is an element of truth to that description, especially in reference to the first book, The Magicians. But if the story owes something to Harry Potter, it owes much, much more to C.S. Lewis and Narnia. However, the myth that powers the story in The Magician’s Land (reviewed at Reading Reality) turns out to be the one about Baldur, or Osiris.

Quentin Coldwater was one of those young magicians who went to college at Brakebills, in a hidden fold of upstate New York. But Quentin’s love of magic was fueled by his intense love for the imaginary land of Fillory, much in the way that so many engineers get into the field by falling for Star Trek.

Fillory was the creation of Christopher Plover, writing up what he believed where the imaginary adventures of the young Chatwin children during World War II. And yes in a country house and yes they fell into Fillory, but through a clock case and not a wardrobe. Of course the young Chatwins were telling the truth, at least mostly. Plover just thought it was imaginary, or perhaps he wanted to believe it was.

Quentin and his friends become the Kings and Queens of Fillory, but in The Magician’s Land, Quentin undertakes a great quest to save Fillory, and like Moses and the Promised Land, he saves his people but can’t remain to reap the happiness brought by his successful quest.

And just like in Narnia, that saving is only temporary. Just as the Narnia stories end with The Last Battle, Fillory has also reached the end of it’s natural life. Fillory is dying. Quentin’s friends, Julia and Eliot and Josh and Penny, are the kings and queens who will see it fall.

Where is Quentin? Still exiled from Fillory, but desperately trying to find a way to get back to the roots of his own magic. A talking bird gathers a group of magically inclined strangers in a bookstore in Hoboken (Hoboken?) to steal something magical but seemingly innocuous. Except it isn’t. The bird plans to steal a suitcase belonging to the last of the Chatwin siblings, and he has recruited not just Quentin, but the last remaining descendant of the Chatwins to open it.

A sword and a book should not be enough to either save or damn a world, but they are.

While Julia and Eliot desperately search the wild places of Fillory to find a way to stave off the apocalypse, Quentin, along with Plum-granddaughter-of-the-Chatwins hunt for a way to save themselves from the hell unleashed by opening that damn briefcase.

When the situation reaches its lowest depths, all their quests come together, only to discover that Ember and Umber, the gods of Fillory, are nowhere near as self-sacrificing as Aslan was in Narnia.

The Magician’s Land, and the entire Magicians trilogy, are an exercise in mythmaking, and what an awesome and amazing myth it is.

The story begins with two seemingly banal quests; Quentin’s recruitment into the theft, and Julia and Eliot’s defeat of some particularly inept invaders in Fillory. But everything in this story is more than it seems. As you go deeper into the story, Quentin dives deeper into the origins of himself, of magic, and most of all, of Fillory.

Quentin isn’t as strong of a character as he was in the first two books. Not just because he starts out drifting but also because he’s the catalyst for a lot of the action without always being the action itself. Sometimes he makes things happen, and sometimes things happen because he is there.

But his part in the story is absolutely crucial.

The portrayal of the death of Fillory is completely heart-rending. It was like reading The Last Battle all over again, without the promise of the happy ever after in Aslan’s version of heaven. The last gasp is very nearly the last of everything. But there is a myth for that, too.

If you’ve read the rest of the trilogy, The Magician’s Land brings the story to an awe-inspiring conclusion. If you haven’t read The Magicians yet, what are you waiting for?

I give The Magician’s Land an A.

p.s. This is the first story I’ve ever read where the phrase “dragon porn” makes sense in context.

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