The Magician’s Land is an exciting and satisfying end to a trilogy that had its ups and downs, but was nevertheless entertaining and always delivered on complex characters. Not to draw too clear of a parallel between the main character, Quentin, and the author here — because I’m sure Lev Grossman is not, and never was, the little shit that Quentin started out as — but I genuinely feel that there is some symmetry between the quality and goal of each of the books and Quentin’s own character development. In the first book, both Quentin and the story itself were brash, ambitious, and at times immature and masturbatory. In the second, it seemed that both were determined to grown and prove their worth to the world, and not fall into some kind of slump.
Now, here, in the final book, Quentin has finally achieved demonstrable wisdom: he’s no longer flashy for flashy’s sake, and his struggle to prove himself is less a mission to silence his haters and more of a process of self-actualization. There are still moments of swagger that betray the old Quentin, but in light of his arc and experiences they’re more charming and self-effacing than irritating. Likewise, The Magician’s Land confidently navigates the character through a path that’s unexpected but feels completely fitting for the end of his story, using more restrained plots and magic throughout to give the end that much more punch.
One thing I’ve appreciated throughout the trilogy is Grossman’s earnest attempts to write complex female characters, since it seems like many male fantasy authors simply can’t be bothered, or if they do, they get it completely wrong. Now, successful female characters are kind of in the eye of the beholder, but I’ve always felt that Grossman did it right. For one thing, and I may be wrong about this, but I think by the time this trilogy ended, there may have been a higher number of “main” female characters than male ones. It also seems like Grossman is the type of author who follows the school of thought about just writing interesting characters without regard to their genders. Sure, there are heterosexual romantic entanglements throughout that he needed to account for, but those aside, none of the characters appear to have sprung first from some kind of gendered archetype and then have layers of complexity draped over those molds.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, both on its own merits, and as a series ender. While I was reading it, I almost wanted to go back and re-read both The Magicians and The Magician King just so that I could re-familiarize myself with all of the different story threads Grossman had to finish weaving here, but he nicely balanced the “previously on…” game by giving me just enough detail to remember the most important events without dropping huge infodumps on me in the middle of exposition. By the end, I didn’t want to re-read so much for my own memory as I did because I wanted to return to the story again and see if there was anything that I missed the first time. And the re-read potential, to me, is a hallmark of a great book.