The Magician's Land brings Lev Grossman's adult love letter to portal fantasies and magical academies to a fantastic and thoughtful close. Wether your fond childhoods fantasy memories are from over the rainbow, down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass or departing from a number 9 and 1/2 the worlds he dreamed up will be sure to be familiar and manages binds all those stories together. Lev explores the rocky territory of adulthood with all the disappointments, loss and regrets through the continues journeys of Quentin Coldwater, the character from Breakbills and out of Fillory as they make their way either I the real world or the fantastic without magic ever becoming a get out of jail mfree card. I can say this novel endeared me to his creations and succeeds brilliant by itself because its the only one I have as of yet read and given my enjoyment of it I'll be soon fixing that oversight. I've often heard the series called Harry Potter for adults but this one novel showed me its much more, its a fond look back to those stories of childhood than manages not to get stuck in nostalgia or grim remakings of the same.
The novel follows two separate stories the first following Quentin who has been exiled from the magical land back into the real world and the other about the adventures of his friends who now rule the land of Fillory that was in the last volume aparently his. Quentin's tale is as much about the caper he becomes part of as the novel opens as it is about him trying to come to terms with the multiple losses he suffers. Though still a magician if a mediocre he he was ousted from his childhood dream home, separated from his friends as well as the real world losses that we learn of as the story progresses to being us up to date. For all the sadness that these events cause this part of the book contains a lot of the magic in the story, the alchemy of taking the lot you have and finding the formula that makes it a life worth living.
The Fillory adventures include fighting off an invasion, learning of a comming apocalypse and taking up of heroic quests and though these are stapes of the portal fantasy the thrust of these stories become a travelogue with much ado about talking. Lev makes great use of language and pacing to offset the stories from one another and the dichotomies between the magical realm and the real one feel afterwards not the ones I'd have expected. Elliot, Julia, Poppy and Josh are living there now and lev does a great job of normalizing the fantastic the way they read are as if its normal not as wide eyed tourists. I would not say he makes it more adultish or even sees things through a cynical adult eye but it has a quality of difference that goes beyond mearly grittifying things and adding swearing and sex to old familiar kids stories.
The Magician's Land introduced me to characters I very much would love to have more time with, took me to places that were filled with wonder and not all of because they were magical in nature. He reminded me of stories that I thought I knew, heard and half remember from my own childhood and that is why for me it worked so well on its own; Lev's obvious fondness for the mythical figures of his childhood shine through as do his creations inspired by the likes of Lewis Caroll, Frank L Baum, J M Barry to name just a few. The Magician's Land which is part caper part quest and part aplocalypse plot wise is more about the human spirit finding its way through loss and regret that comes with adulthood yet ultimately never loses a sense of wonder. Much like Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane this novel shows and author who can write a kids story for adults that can remind you what it was like to be a kid but see it with new eyes and appreciate the wonder for its own sake. This is one of the books I will be recommending without much reserve, it has a lot of heart, delivers on its promises and like portal fantasies makes you want just one more trip after the last page is turned. This is the kind of been that even not a follower of the series is worth having and possibly even have it in hard cover.
Now where are those Fillory books ... I must have copies somewhere in all by boxes of books....