The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman is the third novel in his, likely ongoing, series, The Magicians. Like the second novel, The Magician King, this book builds a strong narrative while not repeating the same mistakes of the first novel, The Magicians. What I enjoy about Grossman’s books, besides the well-crafted descriptions and on-point writing, is how each novel comes together at the end. It’s not like I’m reading George R.R. Martin where a books ends with a cliffhanger and a five year wait. Grossman creates an opening for plenty more novels in this world, but The Magician’s Land felt complete. I was satisfied.
In the Magician King, Grossman set the bar high. All of magic needed to be saved from the gods’ intended destruction of magic. How can that be topped? Grossman makes it personal by putting Fillory on the chopping block.
The novel is broken into two main narratives. First, there’s Quentin and his post-Fillory life on Earth. Intermixed, there is Elliott, Janet, Josh, and Poppy still living in Fillory and trying to save it as ominous signs abound.
The Quentin sections are enjoyable, but the novel gets bogged down in a rather pointless robbery. Think Ocean’s Eleven and a mysterious suitcase. The pacing feels off. Could the stakes have been increased or could some of the material have been condensed? It’s hard to know. There are parts, like Quentin’s transformation into an animal other than a goose, which are cool and provides context at the end of the book, but could there have been a different way to make that happen? Some interesting new characters are introduced in this section and I’m sure we’ll see more of Plum and Stoppard in further novels. But, somehow I found myself as impatient as Quentin and the other characters camped out at the hotel by the airport to just get on with it already.
During the Fillory section, the narrative runs smoothly until chapter twelve. I’m not sure if an editor suggested a chapter that explores Janet’s backstory or looked to make her more complex, but we have it in chapter twelve. The problem is that it feels utterly out of place. The only way this would have worked for me is if Grossman wrote something totally self-aware saying, “and now time for some out of place backstory.” Maybe he tries to do that with lines like, “So I guess you’re probably wondering how I all of a sudden turned into an amazing ice goddess with magic axes just now,” and “Remember that time when you guys went off to sea and left me in charge of Fillory for like a year and a half?” However, it didn’t work for me. We get Janet’s little mini-story and it explains how she’s all bad-ass, but she’s still fairly flat.
While I’ve griped about some parts of the book, it comes together halfway through as the narratives begin to join and more consequential action takes place. The last 200 pages are a joy to read and Grossman twists things enough to keep the reader unsure what will happen next. Overall, I really enjoyed The Magician’s Land and if you liked the first two books, you’re sure to like this one as well.
(Random question: When did the characters get magic buttons again?)