The bad news is that the trilogy is finally over. I read this book in less than 48 hours and even I’m impressed with that because I had to go to work AND I had trivia with my friends. (They have no idea how close I was to bailing.) The good news is that I’m exhausted because of how great it was and I can FINALLY watch the SyFy TV series without fear of spoilers!
This series was definitely one of those books/series where you feel as if you’ve lived multiple lives and then when it ends you just feel empty inside. I’ll probably take a day or two before I try to dive into anything else. The Magician’s Land was an excellent follow up to The Magician King and The Magicians. If you don’t want spoilers for the first two books I probably would just skip this post and come back when you’ve read them.
The book begins in the middle of the story and I was definitely confused because it was only about six months after the events of The Magician King and Quentin’s banishment from Fillory and he’s already manage to screw himself over in the real world. This entire series is a long arc of Quentin growing up and gaining the maturity he needs to survive as an adult, both magical AND emotional. I appreciated Grossman’s acknowledgment of this at the beginning of the book and as we passed the half-way point but with a different perspective.
“Quentin knew he was a little old to be wrestling with questions like this—probably he should have had them wrapped up by around puberty—but he’d always paid more attention to magical problems than to the personal kind. Maybe that had been a mistake.” (31)
“This was a double game: he was trying to save his childhood, to preserve it and trap it in amber, but to do that he was calling on things that partook of the world beyond childhood, whose touch would leave him even less innocent than he already was. What would that make him? Neither a child nor an adult, neither innocent nor wise. Perhaps that is what a monster is.” (232)
I also really loved, throughout the series, Grossman’s irreverence, pop-culture references and what felt like his flaunting the genre of science fiction/fantasy. He was making and using tropes while acknowledging the tropes that came before. He also had a wicked sense of humor which just made me laugh, both of these could’ve easily been ridiculous in any number of works, but they fit in this mostly due to Grossman’s writing style.
“fairies thought all this military stuff was pretty silly, but they went along with it for the same reason that fairies ever did anything, namely, for the lulz.” (47)
“Half the mountains in the Northern Barrier Range had just erupted, blown their tops off like ripe pimples. She hadn’t even known they were volcanic, but now they were lobbing big seminal gobbets of lava all over their lower slopes, like a drunk prom queen puking on her dress. Shit was getting geological, yo. Fillory was bleeding its hot arterial blood.” (335)
There was also A LOT of love about book sin this novel and the whole entire series really, but this one really made me laugh because how many of us belong in a book-aholics program?
“Drinks were a lot like books, really: it didn’t matter where you were, the contents of a vodka tonic were always more or less the same, and you could count on them to take you away to somewhere better or at least make your present arrangements seem more manageable.” (72)
I know I haven’t talked much about the plot and I don’t want to. I feel like Grossman did a great job tying all the strands together. He introduced a few more characters that some faded quickly and I want to know more about and he brought back a few we hadn’t heard from in a while for various reasons and I was glad they made reappearance. The ending felt perfect. It was what the series was leading to and I most definitely didn’t feel it was over or underdone and that’s saying something.
On a side note, I wanted to yell “PREACH!” when I read this quote:
“Quentin hadn’t slept the night before, and he’d thrown his back out in the fall, and he was starting to be in some serious pain. It had happened to him a couple of times before. Up through around twenty-five he’d never even thought about his back: it was a balanced, frictionless, self-regulating system. Now it felt like a busted gearbox into which somebody had chucked a handful of sand.” (243)
SERIOUSLY, why is it the second you turned 25 your body is like get ready old age is coming and it’s a lot closer than you think/want.
Recommendation: I say read it. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings on it, but I ultimately really enjoyed it. There are characters you hate (cough Janet cough), but there are characters you grow to love. Grossman writes the characters and the places in such a way that you know them and you feel them. I’m going to miss Fillory AND Grossman’s earth. I want him to go back at some point, but I don’t know if it would be the same.
Opening Line: “The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.”
Closing Line: “‘You know what?’ He took Alice’s hand. ‘Let’s fly.'” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from The Magician’s Land
“It was a bookstore, and he felt at home in bookstores, and he hadn’t had that feeling much lately. He was going to enjoy it. He pushed his way back through the racks of greeting cards and cat calendars, back to where the actual books were, his glasses steaming up and his coat dripping on the thin carpet. It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.” (1)
“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.” (5)
“There was a lot of strange magic in cards: a shuffled deck wasn’t a fixed thing, it was a roiling cloud of possibilities, and nothing was ever certain till the cards were actually played. It was like a box with a whole herd of Schrödinger’s cats in it. With a little magical know-how you could alter the order in which your cards came out; with a little more you could guess what your opponent was going to play before she played it; with a bit more you could play cards that by all the laws of probability rightfully belonged to your opponent, or in the discard pile, or in some other deck entirely.” (10)
“Doing magic was like finally finding the words you’d been groping for your whole life. You’d always known what you wanted to say, it was on the tip of your tongue, you almost had it, you knew it a moment ago but somehow forgot it—and then there it was. Casting the spell was like finally finding the words: there, that’s what I meant, that’s what I’ve been trying to say all along.” (26)
“This wasn’t Tolkien—these weren’t orcs and trolls and giant spiders and whatever else, evil creatures that you were free to commit genocide on without any complicated moral ramifications. Orcs didn’t have wives and kids and backstories. But he was pretty sure the Lorians were human, and killing them would be basically murder, and that wasn’t going to happen. Some of them were even kind of hot. And anyway those Tolkien books were fiction, and Eliot, as High King of Fillory, didn’t deal in fiction. He was in the messy business of writing facts.” (48)
“Fate is coming whatever you do, so quit wriggling around, it’s only making you look more ridiculous than you already do. We’re all ghosts here, you just don’t look like one yet. But she wasn’t having that. If that was true then what was the point of anything ever? She was going to wriggle a bit longer anyway. Who the hell cared how ridiculous she looked.” (101)
“Never risking anything meant never having or doing or being anything either. Life is risk, it turned out.” (128)
“They were trotting along in search of they didn’t even really know what, and there was no way to speed up the process, if there even was a process. It was quixotic, was what it was. Not even that, it was sub-quixotic. My kingdom for a windmill to tilt at.” (192)
“That was one thing about books: once you read them they couldn’t be unread.” (205)
“‘So you want to know what we’re doing? We’re doing magic. And if it comes off it’s going to be a fucking masterpiece.’ That was magic for you, right? The thing about magic, the real kind: it didn’t make excuses, and it was never funny.” (257)
“When he was younger it seemed like the only time he wasn’t afraid was when he was angry. He’d been so full of fear and self-doubt that the only way he could think of to be strong was to attack the world around him.” (290)
“Hate isn’t like love, it doesn’t end. It goes on forever. You can never get to the bottom of it. And it’s so pure, so unconditional!” (322)
“You’re a great magician, you always have been, and I’m sure you’re a pretty great librarian too. Magic and books: there aren’t many things more important than that. But there are one or two.” (365)
“She was starting to suspect that facing up to the nightmare of the past is what gives you the power to build your future.” (369)
“Sometimes when you finally figure out what you have to do, you discover that you already have what you need.” (380)
“He’d been right about the world, but he was wrong about himself. The world was a desert, but he was a magician, and to be a magician was to be a secret spring—a moving oasis. He wasn’t desolate, and he wasn’t empty. He was full of emotion, full of feelings, bursting with them, and when it came down to it that’s what being a magician was. They weren’t ordinary feelings—they weren’t the tame, domesticated kind. Magic was wild feelings, the kind that escaped out of you and into the world and changed things. There was a lot of skill to it, and a lot of learning, and a lot of work, but that was where the power began: the power to enchant the world.” (399)