Is there anything better than a trilogy that improves with each installment? That’s saying a lot when the first book wins an Alex Award (The Magicians) and the second (The Magician King) makes our AB4T Best of the Year list. Lev Grossman wraps up the trilogy with The Magician’s Land (releasing tomorrow) in a singularly satisfying manner. It’s a struggle to avoid spoilers here because I was so terribly pleased and moved by the ending of this third book, and what that ending says about growing up. But I must. You will need to read it yourself.
There are glowing reviews out in the world right now, most of which agree that this book is the best of the trilogy, and I have to agree. (The New York Times reviewer, for one, does a splendid job of capturing how well The Magician’s Land works.) I have read the first two books in the trilogy more than once and look forward to a re-read of this one. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge fantasy reader, but there is something about this world that makes me want to linger, to live in it a little. And I think that’s because Grossman is both a very, very funny, entertaining (and big-hearted) writer, and because he has things (hard, true things) to say about life and our world.
But enough about me. What will teens think? After all, we are talking about characters who are past school, beyond college, and into their late 20s/early 30s. Why should teens care? Of course, readers of the first two will be dying to see how Quentin’s story wraps up. And there are wonderful set pieces — from the heist-gone-wrong to Quentin’s encounter with Alice (his first love who reappears here in frightening form) to the end of the world in Fillory. What does it look like when a magical world dies? (There are so many inventive images in this part of the book, it is astonishing.)
Perceptive teens will appreciate how The Magician’s Land speaks to the way childhood dreams can mature into important work. And those who love series that extend a mythology through each book (yes, Narnia; yes, Harry Potter) will be entranced by what they learn about Fillory, and how they learn it.
Meanwhile, just a few weeks ago the folks at the Syfy channel announced that they would produce the pilot of a television version of The Magicians. If the series moves forward you can bet that even more teens will become fans of the books. You’ve been warned.
And for us, the adults who love books and love sharing them with others, for us the author has left little gifts. In The Magician’s Land, the joy of reading has power. Literally.
* GROSSMAN, Lev. The Magician’s Land. 401p. Viking. Aug. 2014. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9780670015672. LC 2014010097.
“Can a man who can cast a spell ever really grow up?” This question is posed in The Magicians (Viking, 2009), the first book in Grossman’s trilogy that concludes with The Magician’s Land. Many coming-of-age stories are about leaving childhood behind but this fantasy series has always presented a more interesting idea; growing up means holding on to a bit of childlike magical thinking to fuel the dreams that will change the world. This is the journey readers have taken with Quentin as he’s aged from a sullen teenager to a prematurely hoary 30-year-old man. Banished from Fillory, with no kingdom to lead and nowhere else to go, Quentin returns to Brakebills in search of a job. After his tenure as a professor at his alma mater is cut short, he takes on the adventure of a magical heist. Meanwhile, Fillory is dying. Eliot and Janet are determined to find a way to save the collapsing magical world, but the end might be inevitable. The parallel narratives move at a slower pace than typical teen readers may expect, but there are numerous plot threads to resolve here, and Grossman does each one justice with satisfyingly loving details. An older reader who has followed the series will relish these moments, especially when the dual narratives converge. Fans won’t be disappointed with this emotional conclusion, full of the author’s wry voice, sharp characterization, and unique ability to blend pop culture with fantasy.—Joy Piedmont, LREI, New York City