Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman, Viking, 2014, 401 pp

About a month ago during a killer heat wave of temperatures between 105 and 108 degrees, I was forced to go out into the world for a doctor's appointment. I have hardly ever gone to doctors for most of my life but now am at an age when it is a regular occurrence. Trust me, this is relevant to my review of the third volume of Lev Grossman's Magicians Trilogy.

In an attempt to make my outing more fun, I stopped at one of my favorite indie bookstores, Vroman's in Pasadena. I was going to splurge and buy Margaret Atwood's new story collection, Stone Mattress. Alas I was one day too early. That book was releasing the next day. So I chose a different sort of magic and bought The Magician's Land in hardcover. Now I own a complete set!

At the beginning of this book, which promised to put a wrap on the turbulent but self-centered life of Quentin Coldwater, I suffered from a certain ennui. Actually, the first couple chapters devoured while having lunch in Vroman's cafe were entrancing: that nerdy bookish magic guy thing Grossman does so well, especially when he combines it with the seedy world weary characters one expects to find in modern novels written by Russian immigrants. But all too soon both Quentin and his friends are suffering from magic gone bad, some set in Fillory, some at Brakebills, and other incidents at revisited locales from the earlier books. Really? Come on Lev. You can do better than that.

Well, in the end he does. In fact he was doing better than I thought all along. He tackles questions like will a self-involved, less-than-top-rate magician ever grow up? Quentin makes strides. But if he does grow up can he still hang out in his beloved Fillory? Also, in an echoing homage to The Chronicles of Narnia, we learn more about the creation of Fillory. Need I say more? If you've read and loved the two earlier books, you can be assured you will love The Magician's Land.

Why were my experiences of the day I bought the book relevant? Because I have been a person who was reluctant to grow up and who believed in magic for too long. The last few years have forced me to become an adult. Though I am about twice the age Quentin is in this book, I was not bored at all to read a story about a magician reaching maturity.

The Magicians was a coming of age story. We don't really have genres or literary categories for the second two volumes of the trilogy. The Magician King was how do you handle life after your schooling is over. This final book is how do you put life together after all the mistakes you made in the middle part.

(The Magician's Land is available in hardcover on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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