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The Magician’s Land

By Lev Grossman

Having been thrown out of Fillory, Quentin again finds himself back on Earth and facing the eternal question of what to make of his life. Without really having a plan, he returns to Brakebills, the secret college of magic where he learned his skills, where he handily fills a gap among faculty. As some questions resolve themselves (he discovers his specialty is mending), other areas of his life are haunted by unresolved issues from the past. His father passes away, leaving him almost entirely disconnected from his distant mother. He stumbles upon his first girlfriend, Alice, in her niffin form, who threatens the school and its students in her pursuit of Quentin. Mysterious ties to Fillory appear in his life when he accepts temporary employment as a criminal after leaving Brakebills. Meanwhile, Elliot and the other rulers of Fillory face an even greater threat: the end of Fillory itself. As Quentin and his magician friends face new and untested limits of magic, pushing boundaries and trusting that they are able to do so, they also find themselves returning to things they have faced before, and come to realize that the future depends on the past.

“The Magician’s Land” by Lev Grossman is the third and final installment in the Magicians book series. As with the two books before it, this novel seamlessly continues the series in Grossman’s eloquent and engaging writing style, and again offers an entirely new and unpredictable storyline. Quentin’s character serves as an anchor throughout the series, growing and developing through each book and through the series as a whole. Grossman also expands on the backstory of some of the minor characters in this book that have previously had less attention, and brings in new characters to the novel as well, resulting in fresh perspectives on a consistent storyline. Not only does Grossman give attention to multiple characters throughout the novel, he also shows immense care and detail by doing so with minor and distinct changes in writing style. The tone of his writing reads as if someone is speaking, yet lacks the annoying vocal pauses and idiosyncrasies of conversation. The flow of characters and among characters adds to the overall thread of the story, maintaining individuality within a cohesive whole. Grossman expertly crafts the world of Brakebills, Fillory, and those connected to magic with a passion to draws in and grips the reader through to the last page.

To be honest, I was quite amazed by this book. It is thought-out to every last detail, beautifully written, and wonderfully imaginative. Not only is the writing engaging and compelling, but the growth within the characters and broader questions about the implications of magic just beg for introspection and deep conversation. I blew through the series this time around and look forward to re-reading and fully digesting each book at a slower pace sometime in the future. Well worth the read, especially this one. But you’ll have to read the whole series to understand the final novel!

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The Magician King

By Lev Grossman

His Highness Quentin Coldwater is one of four rulers (2 kings, 2 queens) in the magical land of Fillory. In the company of old friends, Quentin oversees the goings-on of the realm. The only problem is there aren’t really any problems. Fillory is a harmonious land that seems devoid of enemies, war, or general threats of any kind. Until one day when they discover a single tree in the forest that seems disturbed by a nonexistent wind. Quentin sees this as the beginning of a quest, so when the rulers discover a reason to visit the outer edges of the kingdom (possible tax evasion), Quentin undertakes the task with great gusto and a support crew. When Quentin and Julia inadvertently find themselves back on Earth, it is Julia and her background in hedge magic, not Quentin’s formal magical training, that help them return to Fillory. As Quentin continues on his quest through Fillory, he ventures through more lands, realms, and worlds, and discovers that Fillory, the Neitherlands, and magic itself face a threat greater than any of them thought possible. With such high stakes it becomes ever more urgent to resolve the threat to magic, and Quentin is forced to learn that great adventures also come at great cost.

“The Magician King” by Lev Grossman is the second novel in the Magicians trilogy. While crafting yet another enchanting storyline for Quentin and Julia, Grossman also takes the opportunity to delve much deeper into character backstory and, bit by bit, shares Julia’s discovery of the shady, secret world of hedge magic. Throughout the story, Grossman returns to a fundamental question for both Quentin and Julia, which takes different forms due to their different circumstances: what is real? While Quentin wrestles with his diminishing ties to and interest in Earth, the realm of Fillory occupies a more and more central role in his life. Julia, meanwhile, strives to hide her real life of pursuing an unregulated magical education by covering it with a façade of day-to-day life that might please her parents. Is the real world the one that sparks a fire in the soul? Or is the real world the one recognized and accepted by other people? Where do they overlap? What happens next if the threat to magic actually destroys the world they inhabit? Grossman couches these questions in a fantastic land that perfectly captures childhood wishes and recasts them in marvelous exploits that an older audience will enjoy.

This time around, Grossman tells two stories in one novel, alternating chapters between Julia’s backstory and Quentin’s current quest. The quick change between plotlines keeps the story moving quickly, and always left me with questions, and therefore the need to keep reading. I loved learning more about Julia, learning more about the outer edges of magic, and also having the opportunity to grapple with the question of what is real. If you’ve read the first book, you certainly need to read the second book. The tone is similar, the stories are fresh, and world is ever-expanding.

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