08 September 2014

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

It’s unfortunate The Rolling Stones’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” has become so cliché, because I’m going to reference it anyway. Sometimes you really do get what you need.

That idea was at the heart of The Magician’s Land. Though Land is the richest of the Magicians Trilogy, it also feels, somehow, the most focused.

Quentin has grown up. He’s 30 during the action of The Magician’s Land. Interestingly, I just turned 30 this year myself, and I easily slipped into Quentin’s shoes, more so than I had in the previous books. That sense of thwarted ambition, of age finally catching up to you - those are feelings I understand all too well.

Land picks up Quentin in medias res as he’s preparing for a criminal enterprise, after his exile from Fillory at the end of The Magician King. The Quentin we thought we knew would have been floundering, whining, but this new Quentin accepts necessity and does what needs to be done. Right from the start, this new Quentin means business.

Even as Quentin embarks on a new journey, the narrative picks up on Eliot and Janet in Fillory, as they are given a dire warning that the end of Fillory is near.

There’s so much I’d like to get into that I can’t without giving away huge plot points. Old friends (and enemies) resurface; some things we thought were ends were only beginnings. There was heartache. There were answers. And there was the realization that not all questions can be answered.

A few last reflections I will share...

The nature of magic in The Magicians Trilogy was always elusive, but here it’s explored more fully, including a beautiful internal soliloquy by Quentin toward the book’s end.

The struggle of growing up - of becoming who you are - is at the heart of this book even more than it had been in the overs, and it’s exquisitely illuminated.

These books get called “Harry Potter for Adults” a lot, and unfairly so. But the fact remains, that’s the easiest way to get the idea across quickly. But one thing these did share with Harry Potter: a satisfying ending.

Going in to this book, I was a bit afraid. I loved the previous books, but the endings always left me a little heartbroken, a little unfulfilled. This one did not. Like it or loathe it, this ending was well-earned and satisfying.