“Facing up to the nightmare of the past is what gives you the power to build your future.”
This is the most recent thing I've read, but I figured if I'm getting any of these reviews done, I should pick the pieces I felt the most passionate about. And since this completes a trilogy I've reviewed previously in this blog, this seemed a decent place to start. NOTE: SPOILERS ABOUND FOR BOOKS 1 and 2. I'll try to avoid them for this specific story. :-)
The Magician's Land picks up essentially where The Magician King left off. Quentin is kicked out of Fillory, no longer a king and feeling very lonely and heartbroken. Elliot and Janet are left running things, with Josh and Poppy by their sides. Julia is MIA, somewhere on the Far Side of the World. Elliot and Janet's story in Fillory is entirely linear; they have issues to combat and journeys to take and they are all along a straight path to the end. Quentin, however, employs Lev's favorite technique of bouncing around a bit until the latter half of the novel, letting us know how Quentin got along in a post-Fillory existence. Essentially, the two tales boil down as follows (again, no spoilers) :
Filllory is suffering, and Janet and Elliot journey to discover not only how bad things are, but what they can do to combat what is happening. That's about as much as I can say of their story without ruining it.
Quentin goes back to the begin and returns to Brakebills, the magic academy that introduced him to his future back in The Magicians. He is taken in as a professor, finally learning what his specialty is and meeting a very important new friend in Plum, a young female magician in her final year at the magical school. His other story involves a heist that he and Plum are hired to take part in, and how the discoveries that arise from that heist set to change things.
I really enjoyed this book. It brought back a number of fantastic characters from the series, letting us see them all again before the close. Quentin finally grew into the character I wanted all along. If you read my previous reviews, a lot of my anger and disappointment at the second book sprung from my hatred of Quentin's inability to grow the fuck up. His ejection from Fillory finally does the trick, and he matures into the man I wanted to see more of from the start. If you want me to care about a character over multiple books, that person needs to grow and change in ways that continue to make them compelling. Book 2 Quentin was still so very much Book 1 Quentin that it drove me crazy. It was incredibly satisfying to finally see him grow up and become what I dreamed of for him.
We also replaced our Female Lead Role, previously occupied by Alice in Book 1 (LOVE) and Julia in Book 2 (HATE) with Plum, who I enjoyed. She had her own drama without being made purely of drama, ala Julia, but also managed to never become a love interest for Quentin, ala Alice. And her ties to the rest of the universe set up by the first two books are believable and interesting.
I also think Lev better employs his timeline jumps in this one. When we had the jumping around to give all of Julia's backstory in 2, I got bored. It didn't help that I hated Julia. But in this, it fills in some story as we go in a way that felt much more natural, and not so much like alternating pages with an entirely different story. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to make techniques work for you, and Grossman seems to have nailed it down better in this one.
In the end, this is an incredibly satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Technically there's open air left at the close that would allow for more, but it also wraps in a way where you don't need anything else. In the past few years, I've read a lot of series that concluded in maddening ways. I was justifiably nervous about the wrap up on this one, especially with how disappointed I was in the middle volume. I shouldn't have doubted - it all came out well in the end.