I reviewed the first two books in this trilogy back for CBR IV, in 2012. I had decidedly mixed feelings about them, particularly the Magician King, although it left me hopeful for a more satisfying third and final book. In retrospect, they can’t have been that bad, because once I found out The Magician’s Land had been published, I reserved it at the library while it was still on order. So.
For those who have are not aware of this series, Grossman’s books begin with young adults at a magician’s college – magic exists and can be learned. They end up in fabled Fillory, a land which they thought was only in stories but turns out to be real. However, there are very real dangers and risks, and disaster befalls them in both books. It very exciting and authentic feeling, and Grossman does wonderful work in world creation, as well as in twisting the YA fantasy tropes found in the Narnia series, Harry Potter, etc. However, the human characters are shallow and unlikeable – selfish, whiny and destructive. As much as I liked the story itself, I was just so irritated with these people. This problem continues into the third novel – although the characters are generally more self-aware and acknowledge their flaws and weaknesses, it is still so hard to like them or even identify any real growth.
However, as always, Grossman has some really interesting plots and pacing. This time around, lead character Quentin is still locked out of Fillory, and is at loose ends back in the regular world. He is looking for a project, and this leads into an interesting magical heist plot with a lot of tension and mystery attached. The second part of the book is about salvation on a number of levels. Throughout the story, I could not wait to see what happened next. So, while not perfect, it is a satisfying ending to an interesting trilogy.