Friday, October 10, 2014

"The Magician's Land" by Lev Grossman

My husband and I are at odds about Grossman's The Magicians trilogy. I love the subversive fantasy because it's an unexpected take on a genre I love. My husband hates it because it's dark and refuses to create heroes, villains, and traditional victories. Well, he might just complain it's bone-crushingly depressing, and that's true too--at least for the first two books.

So maybe my husband would find he actually likes The Magician's Land, whereas, for me, the final book in the trilogy is the least interesting. The story feels more traditional, and the satire of the worlds of Harry Potter and Narnia, which made the first two books so fresh, feels more stale this time. And there's finally that happy ending, though I won't complain about that--the characters deserve that much.

The Magician's Land focuses on a much older Quentin. Gone is the whiny college student of the first novel. This Quentin is in his 30s and exiled from his beloved Fillory. He grew and became a better man in the last book, but his sacrifices haven't made his life better. Instead, he's getting involved in a shady magical heist. And this is where I first began to lose interest. The heist set-up is out of Ocean's Eleven (okay, a less cool Ocean's Eleven), but it just didn't grab my interest. Maybe that's because because there is no real stake in it for Quentin. He wants the money payout, but his reasons seem nebulous.

And that nebulous-ness continues throughout the book. Quentin's father dies, and the death affects him significantly, but he never really had a relationship with his father to begin with. And then--out of nowhere to me--he becomes devoted to finding Alice, his girlfriend from the first book who died and became a niffin (a kind of rage demon). Redeeming Alice eventually becomes his singular purpose, but I felt like reference to Alice had been almost wholly missing from book two. [Tangent: Maybe I'm wrong here. My memories of the plots of the first two books are very hazy. I tried to find complete summaries online, but I could only find teaser synopses. You definitely need a good understanding of the established characters to follow The Magician's Land appropriately.]

The book also follows Janet and Josh, who are currently ruling Fillory, and their quest to save Fillory--which is dying, of course--feels more like the previous two books.

Though I've complained about much of The Magician's Land, I can understand that a change from the other two books is necessary in order to reflect the change in Quentin. Much of the book focuses on his maturity, and while he (and the book) still acknowledge that the world sucks, there's no longer a sense of hopelessness. Even still, there was a lack of "realness" to the book and an over-abundance of exposition that makes it the weakest Grossman's three novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment