The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like a beautiful fractal, this book is doing the same thing on the individual story level and on the series level: joining together all the threads. This book starts off with Quentin trying to get money on by participating in a magical mission impossible after having been kicked out of Fillory in book 2. It then pivots to Janet, Eliott, Josh, and Poppy in Fillory where things are going a bit screwy. By the end of the book the two plots have not only joined, but have revealed themselves to be workings towards the same goal from different ends. In the same way, this book ties together all the plot threads from books 1 and 2 and has characters and plot points from all of those joining together. I’ll get back to this below in the spoiler section. Before I get to the spoilers, I do want to say that Grossman also does a great job with the fact that our characters have grown over the seven years we’ve known them.
OK, so spoiler time. To me the best parts of this book are the payoffs for all the setups and world-building Grossman has put together over the series. Throughout the heist plotline in book 3, one of the characters just seems a BIT too enthusiastic about the heist and is ready to kill anyone who wants to put it off. The reveal that it’s Asmodeus who was intent on getting the god-killing knife as payback against Reynard’s treachery in book 2 was amazing. Alice’s niffin storyline had echos of Buffy’s resurrection in Season 6, so I wasn’t surprised at the outcome. But the way Grossman uses her time travel abilities as a niffin to allow Quentin to learn how to restart Fillory makes it all worth it. I also love that he respects us enough to keep things complicated between Alice and Quentin, so that we get a happy ending, but not a sappy ending. After the rush of the heist storyline ended, it was nice to get the Chatwin book to fill in the background that we’d had hints of here and there since the first book. The return of Mayakovsky was amazing. It was also a great callback to Alice’s brother’s storyline as well as an understanding of why he was the way he was. And getting there in the head of an animal was once again pure joy.
As I read the first book, I was really worried at how much I hated the main characters. But they really grew and matured. Alice’s return after 7 years is a great reminder of how far Quentin had come. But even Janet, who I loathed in the first book, had a heel face turn and really made me love her character by the time the book was ending.