The Magicians Land – Lev Grossman – Review
The Magicians series did not end up being the series I was expecting when I started it. I thought it would be more of an epic tale, one where someone learns they can do magic and have to go on grand adventures exploring their new power and saving their new lives. It ended up being snippets of Quinten growing up and finding out who is as a person. Each book could have stood alone. There was the loose thread of Fillory wound throughout but I felt like if I had read them out of order I wouldn’t have missed too much of the story. I liked this element though and I think the last book The Magicians Land was my favorite of the three books.
The Magicians Land picks up not too long after the last book ended. Quinten has been thrown out of Fillory and he is trying to find a new path in his life. After a short stint as a professor at Bakebills he gets caught up in a robbery plot.
Quinten and a number of others are hired to steal a cae. They don’t have any idea what they are stealing, just that they will get a big pay off when the job is done. Most of those involved need the cash to start a new path in life and are willing to take part even without much information.
The heist goes wrong and Quinten finds himself having to make some tough choices. Choices tied to his past and figuring out if he should save that past or let everything go. Quinten spent most of the series trying to find his path in life, trying to figure out if what has happened should influence what will happen later in his life.
Quinten was an interesting character. I never could quite determine how to read him throughout the series. He always seems lost and unsatisifed. I got a bit frustrated at times wondering when he was going to stop looking for something new. Every time he got what he wanted he felt empty. He became a magician but didn’t feel like he had a purpose as a magician. Then he became a king of Fillory and wanted epic quests. He didn’t want to just rule, he was always searching for something just beyond his reach.
At the end of the last book I felt like I finally understood him. Quinten was someone who grew up being told a number of things were impossible; magic and Fillory. Then he learns they are all real and he is part of them. He is in awe of this new way of life but reality quickly tramples over him.
Fantasy worlds and magic are complciated. It isn’t the utopia we all imagine it to be. We want to fall into our favorite stories, thinking things will be much better, easier. What Quinten learns is that these worlds and this way of life is just as complicated and difficult to process as the one he has walked away from. Nothing is simple. No land is perfect, no story has the perfect ending.
I loved this look into fantasy and fiction. Stories are our escapes but that is because we get to close the book. We don’t have to actually live those lives. The characters make the decisions and we get to watch safely from behind the pages. I love the Harry Potter series but living in that world would probably disenchant me with the whole series. Once you enter the world you see the flaws and the issues and if you live the story you have to live with the choices and consequences.
This series explained how it would be if we fell into those stories. Quinten learns quickly that there is no such thing a s perfect life and land. You, the one living the story, make the story itself. You make the turns and choices. Wanting that escape is natural and important but getting stuck in that idea will leave you feeling empty and lost. You have to find yourself outside of the story as well.
If you never find your place you will always feel lost. You need an identity that is real and solid. Life is complicated and stories can be difficult but once you find your place they have unmeasurable worth.
I enjoyed this series once I put aside my expectations. It was a fun story. It was a great look at life inside a story and see how finding a balance between fantasy and reality is essential.