Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIAN’S LAND is the final book in his trilogy that also includes THE MAGICIANS and THE MAGICIAN KING. While I enjoyed the earlier books’ take on Harry Potter and Narnia, I found this last book to be the most enjoyable not because of the magic (as great as that was), but because of what it has to say about growing up.
WARNING: This is the third book in a trilogy. There will be some small spoilers for the earlier books. I’ll try to keep them at a minimum.
In the earlier books, Quentin has always dreamed bit, and he got just about everything he wanted: admission to the magical school Brakebills as well as admission to the fantasy world Fillory. These places seemed to echo his dreams and prove that he was indeed very special. Of course, these things were not entirely what he expected, and he received some scars. But these experiences allowed Quentin to exist in a bubble separate from reality. He never had to really grow up and figure out who he was. Now that all those bubbles have popped, Quentin finally has to face the world, to learn about himself, and to decide what to do when your life doesn’t turn out exactly the way he had hoped. Maybe he’s not so special. Maybe he’s just a guy who’s about to turn 30 who hasn’t figured out his speciality, his life, and his career. He needs to figure out how to become the master magician he dreams of being.
So Quentin returns to Brakebills in search of an answer and receives a bit–his magical speciality is mending. Think fixing chipped coffee mugs. Yet another blow to his dreams of greatness. He is most definitely not the Chosen One. But it’s something concrete, something real, something he can work with. But, like many of us, that job doesn’t last. Desperate, (and unlike many of us) he finds himself taking work as a criminal just to earn some money by using his magic.
At the same time, Quentin’s friends in Fillory are going through similar struggles. They are figuring out who they are, and what they want from the world, albeit a magical one. It’s just a shame that Fillory is ending: It’s the apocalypse.
Of course, these threads come together in the end, but the less that is said about how and so what, the better. I don’t want to spoil this beautiful read for you.
Maybe as a guy in his early 30s who recently went through a career change, I have added reasons for enjoying Quentin’s story. But I think everyone can enjoy this poignant and profound story about growing up, discovering self-identity, the changing nature of long-term friendships, and finding satisfaction in your life–even if it isn’t want you always dreamed of, it can still be magical.
I’m sorry to see this series end, but THE MAGICIAN’S LAND is a fantastic way to close out the trilogy. Grossman has taken the tropes of childhood fantasy and created a beautiful, literary, more genuine story–even if it does include magic.