So, full disclosure here, I think I am slightly too emotionally attached to this series to be totally objective and I'll probably break all of my own review policies in the process of writing it. If there was ever a fantasy character who's life mirrored my own, it's Quentin Coldwater. If you replace the magical elements with everyday earth equivalents, it's kind of uncanny, and a bit disturbing! The Physical kids emulate my own university friendship group, who are now Kings and Queens of their own domains and I have my own Julia, who I've recently seen put his destructiveness behind him and become a strong and beautiful man despite the adversity he's suffered. And that's probably why it's taken me this long to actually read The Magician's Land ARC, because it's sort of like peeking in on how my own story progresses and ends. Which is also rather disturbing! But, now I've read it, I can say if my life ends up where his does, I think I'll be pretty happy to continue to be Quentin's earth bound female doppelganger. I actually weeped, and I haven't done that in a very long time! So yep, probably not completely objective! Or at all..
Anyway, before I get all emotional I shall move on..
The Magician's Land picks up not long after The Magician King, Quentin once again trying to work out his life after being ejected from Fillory. And he's still doing a pretty awful job of trying to assimilate, so he decides to take on some magical crime work! This plotline actually fell a bit flat. Although the tangents taken to get it done were great and the conclusion of that arc was a bit of a heart stopper, the actual scenes with the 'gang of thieves' were a bit underdone. The characters were slightly lifeless and underwritten and I was much more interested in the story happening around the plot line, rather than anything that happened with the rest of the crew. I just wanted it to move forward because I found my eyes sort of glazing over and my attention starting to waver.
Of course we have the character of Plum who is new to The Magicians. I did get annoyed that once again there is another over-achieving depressive female as Q's sidekick. I like those qualities in a character, but Grossman didn't seem to be able to find a new template! I did grow to like her, but it took a while to see her as anything other than another plot device. I don't know that I'll ever be 100% sold on her, I just felt like she didn't have enough robustness to keep me fully engaged. She is in Poppy status.
We also get to see what's going down in Fillory whilst Quentin is off stealing things on earth, and those scenes I relished. Elliot and Janet have always fascinated me and we finally get to see what's knocking about in those heads first hand! And I realised after all this time, I really love them both! Janet really sparkled, her story and attitude were amazingly well written and I am sort of annoyed it took so long for her to be properly introduced! I want a book just about her. Her scenes stood out vibrantly amongst the other points of view and I didn't want to see them change to another's. Elliot is still too cool for school. Again his perspectives were perfect. He is still a pompous arse, but gods he does it so well! I am glad the final instalment gave us the chance to travel with them up close.
I also enjoyed that not everything we were told about Fillory and the Chatwins in the past was the full story or had ever been completely true. It gave the series a more believable grounding and created a better source of motivation for Martin to have acted the way he did. The story just became a more three dimensional version of itself the more layers that were added. There is a special kind of genius in being able to withhold and rewrite the past the way Grossman has. It is what makes Quentin's final decisions about his future that much weightier.
The garden was hands down, the most beautiful concept ever conceived. The weeping began about there. There may have been a sob or two. I actually didn't know my tear ducts still functioned! However, I am willing to admit it when a piece of art has such an effect on me, because it doesn't happen often enough.
And then it ended. And I was so proud of Quentin's decisions and maturity by the end. Not everyone starts out with the emotional IQ of a benevolent God and I am glad a fantasy writer finally realised it. I hope the rest of us idiot, lazy, arrogant, ignorant, spoiled, weak, superficial (just to name a few choice descriptions I've seen used!) Physical Kids can follow in his footsteps. Thanks for that Mr Grossman, you've given us riff raff some hope!
So, I warned you I wouldn't be completely objective, sometimes it's just not possible, but I had promised the review so you got it warts and damned all! Take it as you will!This review was originally posted on Book Frivolity