Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: "The Magician's Land" by Lev Grossman

Another series of books I really enjoyed has come to an end. As I've said many times before, I'm always hesitant to read the last book in a series, both because I don't want to be left without another book to look forward to, and I'm always nervous about how the author will conclude a series I've grown attached to.

Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land is the conclusion to his Magicians trilogy, a series that followed a group of young magicians as they discovered the magical land they had read about in children's books was actually real, and it was in need of rulers to lead it. In this final book, Quentin Coldwater has found himself banished from his beloved Fillory, where he and his best friends had ruled as kings and queens, defending the kingdom where necessary and protecting the magic within it.

"Six months ago he'd been a king in a magic land, another world, but that was all over. He'd been kicked out of Fillory, and he'd been kicked around a fair bit since then, and now he was just another striver, trying to scramble back in, up the slippery slope, back toward the light and the warmth."

Left with nowhere else to turn, Quentin returns to his alma mater, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic, to try and find a new purpose in his life. While he discovers a love for teaching, it's not long before circumstances connect him with Plum, a graduate student with tremendous talent and a mysterious history, and they both find themselves exiled from Brakebills as well. The need for money and a purpose lead the two toward a dangerous mission, which is connected to Quentin's past in more ways than they can imagine.

Meanwhile, in Fillory, Eliot and Janet, the High King and Queen, have found that all is not harmonious in the kingdom. Enemies are invading, and the magic that has kept the land protected for years on end seems to be failing. The end of Fillory is at hand, and they are desperate to find a way to stop their kingdom from being destroyed, and them along with it.

This is a book about trying to discover your true purpose, and not losing sight of the person you are, even in the face of tremendous adversity. It's also a book about trying to save the things that mean the most to you. And more than anything, this is a book about the pull of friendship, and the willingness to do whatever is necessary for those we care about.

In all of the books in this trilogy, I marveled at the immensely creative and poetic details that Grossman brought to his descriptions of Fillory and the other magical places, and the powers that the magicians have. I also loved the unique voices he gave each of his characters, how their personalities remained relatively consistent throughout, and I really enjoyed the interactions between them.

I found the concept of Fillory's imminent destruction tremendously intriguing, and felt the book really hit its stride whenever it focused on that, as well as the dynamics between the characters. More than the other two books, however, I felt as if The Magician's Land got a little more bogged down in backstory and details that threw it a bit off course. This is definitely a trilogy where you're expected to read the books in order, because Grossman doesn't provide much information about what happened previously, instead simply mentioning characters and incidents without elaborating.

In the end, while this wasn't my favorite book in the series, I did enjoy the way Grossman concluded everything. I really found Fillory to be a special, intriguing place, and so enjoyed spending time with the characters, and I'm just sorry to see everything end. If you believe in magic, and want something a bit more cerebral, definitely check out this trilogy.

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