This review marks the exciting conclusion to one of my favorite series. I was so happy to receive the final installment as a Christmas present. As I had fallen in love with the first two books, I was equally nervous about finishing the series. Would I be satisfied to the final adventure of Quentin Coldwater, the unluckiest magician who ever lived? Is The Magician’s Land a satisfying conclusion to the story built in the first two books? For me, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Although there will be some slight spoilers, I will attempt to keep this review mostly spoiler-free. For my review of The Magicians, click here. For my review of The Magician King, click here.
The Magician’s Land takes place shortly after the second book. Quentin Coldwater now finds himself forbidden to ever enter his beloved world of Fillory again. Trying to find direction in his life, he returns to the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic as a professor. He seems to be settling in well when he begins to feel the old restlessness that has plagued him throughout his life. Along with a brilliant student named Plum who has a dark past of her own, Quentin takes a magical heist job to retrieve a precious artifact from the time of the Chatwin children. This begins a journey of redemption, taking Quentin to places and people he never thought he would encounter again. Meanwhile, things are not well in the magical world of Fillory. The land is in danger of being destroyed once and for all.
I will end any spoilers there, as this is all information that can be found on the back cover blurb. I love how Grossman has managed in this trilogy to merge fantasy with other genres. For the final chapter, he gives us a great heist story with a magical twist. Think Ocean’s Eleven with wizards and a talking bird! This book is really three stories in itself rolled into one. First, we have Quentin’s own story of development and understanding the place he is at which leads him to accept this underground heist job. Then there is the story of Plum, the rebellious student with ties to the Chatwin children. Finally, we have the story of Fillory and the attempts by its rulers to save it from the forces of darkness. This sounds like a tall order, but Grossman knows these characters and manages to weave in and out of the separate stories extremely well before bringing them together in the final half. Although this is a slow buildup, it is worth it in the end when events begin to come together.
A good final chapter manages to bring the story full circle back to the first. There is plenty going on here, as events from the first two books play substantial roles in the final one. New information is uncovered regarding certain plot points from the first installment, so there is no shortage of thrilling twists. Characters from the past make return appearances (no I won’t say which ones), and there is quite a lot of emotional drama to be found. The truly marvelous aspect of this trilogy is the use of well-developed characters who grow and change with each book. Imagine if us fantasy nerds learned that magic was real and that our childhood fantasy novels were actually true! That’s what you get with this series. It’s magic populated by people who are flawed and have issues just like the rest of us.
This book is as much the story of Quentin’s internal journey as it is about his external adventures. I love his growth in these three books without changing the essential elements that make him who he is. Throughout this book, Quentin questions who he is and the changes he has made to himself since becoming a magician. It is interesting to compare his life with that of the villain of the fist book Martin. Both are essentially flawed human beings who take very different paths with magic.The supporting characters work extremely well, both the new ones as well as returning friends.
A theme that runs throughout this series is the effect books have on us as people. In the first book, Quentin and his friends learn that their beloved fantasy books were based on a very real place. However, they soon learn that the innocence captured in those books wasn’t so real. As a childhood lover of fantasy books such as Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, I remember how those books influenced me as a person. As a child, I would often imagine that the grandfather clock was a portal to another universe. I would climb under my bed, dreaming that I was entering a fantastic fantasy world. Although I’m now an adult, I sometimes open a closet door and wonder could it be possible?
I read The Magician’s Land slowly because I knew it was the final act. I find myself feeling that same sense of loss that young Quentin Coldwater felt as a youth when he finished his final Fillory book. Thank you Lev Grossman for creating these books. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
“…In books there’s always somebody standing by ready to say hey, the world’s in danger, evil’s on the rise, but if you’re really quick and take this ring and put it in that volcano over there everything will be fine.
“But in real life that guy never turns up. He’s never there. He’s busy handing out advice in the next universe over. In our world no one ever knows what to do, and everyone’s just as clueless and full of crap as everyone else, and you have to figure it all out by yourself. And even after you’ve figured it out and done it, you’ll never know whether you were right or wrong. You’ll never know if you put the ring in the right volcano, or if things might have gone better if you hadn’t. There’s no answers in the back of the book.”