Review: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

The Magician's LandThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“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.”

I have been extremely fortunate to get to read Lev Grossman’s Magician books in advance of their publication. Once I got a taste of the first one, I don’t think I could have been patient long enough for the actual release dates! This is a series that dares to ask what happens after “happily ever after”, what happens when your heroes from childhood stories grow up, what happens if the shining lands you loved as a kid hid a darker underbelly. I loved how the author made his own world that mirrors Narnia, but that has a definite edge to it.

And that edge is never more apparent than in this concluding volume. Not for Grossman is the gentle “calling home” of Narnia’s final book. The Magician’s Land has omens and battles and death. Everything threatens to come crashing down, and the driving force in this novel is the question of whether or not Fillory can be saved.

In the midst of all of this action, old characters make a return appearance, and old locations are revisited. It’s a “who’s who” and “where’s where” of the Fillory universe, and thankfully it never felt forced. It seems right and natural for everyone to gather one last time and fight for the land that made them kings and queens. While I can’t always say that I liked all of the characters, I freely admit to being engrossed in their struggles and triumphs. Who among us hasn’t wished, even if just for a moment, that the magical places we read about were real?

When I read this book, I got the subtext of Quentin completing an inner journey to realizing that he doesn’t need to lean on Fillory for his identity. In a broader sense, it shows us that we don’t need to depend on things outside of ourselves to sustain us—we can make our own framework within which we can live and create. It’s a message that I hope people take to heart.

I will truly miss Quentin and the land of Fillory now that this trilogy is complete, but I loved the opportunity to dip into this darkly enchanting world. The Magician’s Land is a proper ending for a wide-reaching story, coming full circle to show readers what made them fall in love with the books in the first place.