The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman

Lev Grossman’s Magicians and The Magician King have both had a particular impact on me as a reader. I picked up The Magicians right around the time I was getting out of graduate school and existing in this strange period where I had little direction and less ambition to do much of anything. I picked up and loved The Magician King even more when it was released. And now, with The Magician’s Land, the trilogy comes to a triumphant close. It’s a bittersweet realization, because these three novels feel as though they spoke to me throughout my twenties. Now, with the close of the trilogy, it’s all about moving on. 

(Some spoilers)

The Magician’s Land picks up shortly after Quentin is unceremoniously dumped out of Fillory and returned to Earth. He’s lost the place in which he most cared about after saving the world, and he finds himself welcomed back to Brakebills as a new instructor before he’s recruited for a mysterious task. All the while, Fillory is coming to an end, where Eliot, Janet, Josh and Poppy race to figure out how to save their world from destruction. It’s hard to say more, lest too much of the book is spoiled, but to say the least, Grossman goes all out with this particular story.

The Magician’s Land threw me a bit when I first started reading it: there’s a lot of play here in the structure of the book. Grossman loops back and forth with various storylines, starting in one place, going back and setting events into motion across several worlds. It’s complicated, most likely warrants another couple of readings, and I’m completely happy with that. Each of the books have played with undermining some of the more traditional fantasy tropes, but with each, Grossman has experimented with style, and The Magician’s Land tops the lot nicely. The duel running storylines of The Magician King really made the book for me, and the four or so threads that we play with here work out nicely.

As The Magician’s Land feels like Grossman’s most complicated work, it’s also the most grown up. Where The Magicians looked at learning and growing one’s identity along with one’s surroundings, The Magician King is all about finding a purpose with one’s life. This book, on the other hand, is a sort of coming of age novel, one where Quentin sets about literally building a new world and direction for his life.

This is where the trilogy as a whole speaks to me. I first picked up The Magicians at a point where I could relate to Quentin, and later, The Magician King in my late twenties, when I was starting to settle into a career and family life. The Magician’s Land comes at a point when I’m leaving my twenties. I own a house, am part of a family, have various professional and personal responsibilities. I’ve changed somewhat from the person I was in 2009. Quentin has as well, gone from a fairly insufferable magician to someone far more mature.

Grossman’s worlds have grown as well. The Magicians simply featured Fillory and our own world, plus some tantalizing hints of others. King introduced us to the greater magical world here on Earth, but Land is a grand tour of this fantastic world. The strangeness of Fillory explodes into view, complex and artificial at the same time. The magical world within Earth gets some greater context, and the idea of a place is a central concept of this book: where does one go, and what lengths does one go to to make their own home? There’s a sense of moving on throughout here: Quentin is kicked out of Fillory (all the while Fillory is vanishing), from Brakebills and he loses his father. In many ways, it’s not too similar from what we normally experience: we leave home, all that’s familiar to us, and to survive, we must build our own, whether it’s a house and family, a fantasy world, or a new life. Grossman covers all the bases here, and with it, brings the Magicians trilogy to a close. It’s a fitting and heartwrenching at points, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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