Book Review: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

The Magician's LandThe Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Magicians

Publisher: Viking (August 5, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I practically binge read this series, which is unusual for me. But truly, it is a rare pleasure indeed when subsequent books in a series just get better and better. I’ve had such a change of heart about this trilogy from the first book to the last book, that I am actually floored with amazement. I certainly don’t take back my thoughts in my review of The Magicians – I liked the book but I also had some very real issues with it and those still stand – but by God, it’s hard to believe how The Magician King and now The Magician’s Land have managed to completely revive this series for me.

We’re at the third and final book at this point, so it’s going to be hard to summarize it without giving away spoilers. Suffice to say, protagonist Quentin Coldwater has been through a lot since finding out the magical world of Fillory from his beloved childhood fantasy novels is actually real. He has been its king, explored the farthest reaches of its borders, been ejected unceremoniously from the realm by its god, but through it all Quentin has always had his magic. We return to Brakebills College where he takes on a position as a junior faculty member, but when that falls through, Quentin’s going to need to find another way to make money and make it real fast, especially for the plans he has in mind.

For you see, Quentin has never truly forgotten Alice, whose fate still haunts him daily. She was my favorite character in The Magicians, and to my dismay, I thought we had heard the last of her by the end of that book. So yes, it was invigorating to discover that her story might not be over yet. When it comes to the first book, saying that Quentin had an attitude problem is a massive understatement; I believe I wrote that the only cure for his malaise was a few years of growing up and possibly a swift kick to the seat of his pants – except what happened to Alice was more like a knife through his heart. What happened to Alice defined and transformed his character, so I was also happy to see things come full circle.

The book also has two very distinct parts. In the first half, we have an exciting heist which, departing from convention, doesn’t go well at all – but everyone who knows me know how much I love a good heist story. And trust me, you wouldn’t want to miss how spectacularly disastrous it goes for Quentin and his partners in crime. The action and the dry humor in this book is ramped up to a whole other level, which is something readers have always loved about this series.

The second part of this novel focuses on Quentin and his old friends’ quest to save Fillory. Like all good things, it must come to an end, but not if the old Brakebills gang has anything to say about it. The Magician’s Land was at times thrilling, at others touching, but always it was full of wild magic and fantastic imagination. My only complaint? The link between the two story threads was tenuous at best and the transition between them was very abrupt (whatever happened to the others involved with the heist? “Betsy” got a throwaway mention at best towards the end of the book, and I wouldn’t have minded more Stoppard, I liked him a lot!) but despite this, I have to say the story never faltered in engaging me and holding my attention.

In essence, The Magician’s Land achieved something that all series-enders should strive for. Not only does Grossman tie everything together, he does it in a way that makes you think back to the earlier books and it suddenly occurs to you: Oh, so THAT’S what he was setting up for. The first book The Magicians was a coming-of-age tale which felt rather aimless at times, if I’m to be honest. But somewhere between its last hundred pages and the first hundred pages of the book two, I think the series finally found its direction. From then on out the story took off, straight and steady, and as a result, this last book is marked by a certain cohesiveness that makes sense – that just feels right.

And Quentin. Quentin, Quentin, Quentin. If it is possible to feel proud of a fictional character, it is the feeling I get for him after reading this book. What a far cry from when I wanted to wring his spoiled, whiny neck and throttle the life out of him in The Magicians. He grew up. He grew up a lot. He became someone I liked and admired, and as infuriatingly annoying as he was in the first book, I don’t know if I would have appreciated his growth and character development this much if he hadn’t been so unappealing to begin with. He was a shallow, self-absorbed child who ultimately became an adult worthy of his magical gifts, and it is a testament to the author’s pacing and writing style that it was a journey that didn’t feel forced or contrived.

My final thoughts: I may have stumbled a bit with the first book of this series, but the way I see it, it’s always better to read a series that gets stronger than to read one that goes downhill after book one. And so, I tentatively recommend the first book The Magicians; after all, it’s one of the most polarizing books I’ve ever read. It seemed as many readers loved it as hated it, while some others like me fell somewhere in between. But I felt a lot more positive towards the series with The Magician King, and as the last book of the trilogy, The Magician’s Land was a solid finale. My thoughts on book one aside, I think the trilogy as a whole is fantastic and absolutely worth experiencing. What an adventure it has been.

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Viking Books!

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19 Comments on “Book Review: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

  1. I completely agree with you that this book was the strongest of the trilogy, and in fact it made me go back and regard the first two books more highly. Finally everything tied together in a way that was engaging and intellectually stimulating at the same time.

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    • Looking back, I feel the same way. I didn’t love the first book, which is still true, but after reading this, I think I can appreciate The Magicians in a way I didn’t before.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love series enders that tie things together, and reads like the author actually had a plan. I thought this one wrapped everything up very nicely!

      Like

    • I hear ya. Alice was my favorite. It’s a lot of investment to get to this point, but I was happy to see that we get to find out what happens to her.

      Like

  2. Well, you may have convinced me to give this another shot. It’s nice to know it’s a series that actually improves as it goes along. And the fact that he ties in things from book one at the end makes me happy:-)

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    • Two things about this series got so much better for me: 1) Character, and 2) the books actually had a direction, which was the biggie. If it were possible, I’d totally tell people to just read books 2 and 3, but I suppose there’s important info in book 1 too 😛

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  3. Oh it’s nice to have a good last book, it’s always difficult I think not to be disappointed but it sounds good. I’m not that much into the cover but it’s great to know that it gets better and better. Great review!

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  4. After reading this review, I’m feeling the beginnings of hope! The first book is getting read for sure (I own it, after all) but it’s nice to know that the series has nowhere to go but up…and that it goes there!

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    • I was a bit wary, but I’m glad I stuck it out. I’m curious now what you’ll think when you read the first book…seems folks either really like it or really hate it 😛

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  5. This is the sort of series that I can get on board with where it gets stronger with each book. Will defo add this to the list Funnily enough I got the first book out from the library ages ago and actually didn’t read it!
    Will attempt another go.
    Lynn 😀

    Like

    • That’s the great thing about libraries, you can always borrow it again! I hope you’ll get a chance to give it a go, and I’d be curious about what you think!

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  6. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the first book in this series, but now I feel like I have to since you’ve loved every book after the first more!

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  7. Pingback: Books recommended to me . . . - Notes from a ReaderholicNotes from a Readerholic

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