The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
I discovered, fell in love with, and finished this trilogy pretty quickly, and am now pretty gutted that it’s gone. Lev Grossman’s Magician Trilogy ended up comfortably exceeding the ‘Harry Potter for adults’ expectations I had for it, hybridising a wide range of influences into something which references and builds on previous fantasy works, whilst crafting something incredibly new and exciting at the same time. The Magician’s Land is a great end to this trilogy.
The Magician’s Land picks up a few months after The Magician King left off, with Quentin kicked out of Fillory by Ember despite his heroism in saving the kingdom. After briefly working as a Professor at Brakebills, Quentin is now recruited into a robbery to take a briefcase with a tantalising connection to his past. Alongside him are a group of talented magicians, including the new character Plum, who had been previously expelled from Brakebills. Meanwhile in Fillory, Elliot and Janet return victorious from battle to be informed by Ember that Fillory is dying. Having grown since their Brakebill days, Elliot and Janet set out on an epic quest to save the land they’ve grown to love.
The scope of the narrative expands even further in The Magician’s Land. Where The Magicians focused just on Quentin and The Magician King also contained Julia’s story, The Magician’s Land expands the point of view characters to Elliot, Janet and Plum, alongside Quentin of course. What makes there varying viewpoints so great is the way that they contrast each other. Relatively gritty and grounded scenes following Quentin on Earth are followed by scenes of epic fantasy with Elliot and Janet in Fillory, and both are great. The storylines all do come together in a satisfying manner, so don’t worry that Grossman stretched himself too thin. Almost all hanging story threads are addressed, and pretty much every character pops up for some kind of cameo. It’s an immensely satisfying finale.
There’s one passage towards the end of The Magician’s Land which I think may be one of my favourite pieces of writing I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s an action scene on a scale unlike almost anything else. It’s an unbroken stretch of writing as a character surveys the entire world. It’s almost the literary equivalent of one of those awesome single camera shots you sometimes see in movies, like that great one in The Avengers. I really cannot describe it, but it had a real effect on me, making me feel incredibly excited but also unbelievably tense. I can’t stop thinking about this scene; Grossman’s writing is just fantastic.
The entire trilogy is about growing up, and many characters who we first saw as callow youths are now coming into their own. Quentin is lightyears away from the rather pathetic figure from The Magicians and his journey is the foundation everything else is built on. If Quentin’s character arc wasn’t so compelling none of the high fantasy shenanigans in the world could save it, but he grows and changes in such interesting ways it makes you wonder why other fantasy characters can be so static. Many other characters get their moment in the sun, with Elliot outgrowing his alcoholic hipster irony to throw himself into his position as High King of Fillory. Janet, a fairly thin character in the first two books, really comes into her own, as we begin to get a real insight into the insecurities which underpin her and witness as she overcomes them. The Physical Kids have come a long way since Brakebills, and it’s been a pleasure to share their journey.
The Magician’s Land is everything the final volume in a series should be. It’s epic and stake raising without getting away from the character stuff that every good book needs. This is a trilogy everyone, regardless of genre preferences, should read.