The Magician’s Land, the final novel in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, comes out on August 5th. I first drawn to the Magicians when the cover kept haunting me at Barnes and Noble. Time and time again I have found you can judge a book by its cover – unless that cover is The Infinite Moment of Us in which case the cover lies, LIES! But I digest. The cover caught my eye, the book jacket reeled me in:
By imagining magic as practiced in the real world by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions, Lev Grossman pays homage to the fantasy novels of C. S. Lewis, T. H. White and J. K. Rowling while creating an utterly original realm in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent and power comes at a terrible price.
When there is a sequel, and most definitely when there is a trilogy, I am the type of reader that rereads the previous books to prep for the release of the final. And so begins my Magicians reread and this entry here. Including just now, I have read the Magicians 3 times and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older, but each time I read the book I want to punch Quentin Coldwater in the face more forcefully than the time before. Lets rewind shall we?
At its core, The Magicians is a coming of age story about a boy – a depressed, ridiculously (book)smart, teenager named Quentin Coldwater. Quentin is attached to a series of books centering around the fantastical world of Fillory (think Narina). One day he finds himself transported to upstate New York to take an entrance exam into a prestigious school of sorcery, Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Quentin believes he’s finally escaping his mundane life in the city to pursue magic and he will finally be happy but over time his depression creeps back in. Each new discovery briefly deceives Quentin into thinking he will be happy but he is never satisfied. Following the conclusion of his magical education and now running amok as a certified magician in Manhattan, Quentin learns Fillory is real and he is going on an adventure to save Fillory where he will finally fulfill his destiny. But things never go according to plan do they?
Let’s get one thing straight, Quentin is an unlikeable protagonist but I think most people can appreciate a flawed character. Quentin is depressed, snarky, insecure, unappreciative, and narcissistic. I stick with him because people truly believe if you can attain your heart’s desire then you will be happy. And this is simply not true, least of all in Quentin’s case. Like any good coming of age novel, Quentin befriends a rag tag group of students – Eliot, Alice, Janet, and Josh, all with their own baggage.
One of my favorite quotes in the books is from Dean Fogg: Can a man who can cast a spell ever really grow up? I had never really thought about magic in that context before and it rings true of Quentin and his friends at Brakebills, they are teenagers playing with a power they don’t understand. After years of study, the know how to manipulate and use the magical power they have access to but they have no concept of the wider world in which they exist and more importantly they are clueless to the consequences of their actions. Never fear, all of these elements make for a fantastic story!
This story is a mix of previous magical tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter but also reminds me of other novels which feature an extremely tight knit friend group with secrets like The Secret History by Donna Tartt and The Likeness by Tana French. Last year I met Lev Grossman (and his twin/brother Austin) at the Decatur Book Festival and I was extremely extremely awkward (like more awkward than normal) and I wish I could wipe it from my memory *shudders* I did get my books signed woo… I almost would exchange the signatures for my dignity – oh the adventures of being me.