The Magicians trilogy, Lev Grossman (2009, 2012, 2014)
Okay, sometimes I set down the literary classics and read something just for fun. Namely The Magician’s Land, the third and final book in The Magicians trilogy. It engaged me totally, and I’m so glad this last installment (spoiler alert) finally deals with the loss of Alice. This was my biggest difficulty with the last few pages of the first book, and the entirety of the second: Grossman created a character and a relationship we loved and rooted for, then didn’t let the character–and, by extension, the reader—properly mourn her. The Magician’s Land gives us that chance.
A master class in:
1. The use of time pressure to keep a reader reading. The heist scene makes great use of external temporal urgency to push internal issues to the fore. 2. Re: Alice- Understanding the reader’s expectations (and managing disappointment at expectations unfulfilled.) 3. Change over time. Quentin starts the series as an essentially miserable teenage existentialist, and ends as a thirty-something with a genuine sense of hope. (See the final quote below.)
“It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.” (I have been noticing lately the sheer number of books that are essentially odes to books. Am reading Roald Dahl’s Matilda to the kids I babysit, the beginning of which largely takes place in a library. The Magician’s Land starts in a bookstore. As a reader and writer, I’m more than happy to spend more time in these settings!)
“One of the secrets Martin must have learned[…] was how not to care about some things, and there was power in that, the power to live as though his actions had no consequences. It fell to us to witness the consequences, and they were ugly.”
“Quentin thought about how wrong things had gone. Things so often went wrong. Was it him? Was he making the same mistakes over and over again? Or different mistakes? He’d like to think he was at least making different mistakes.”
“The world was a desert, but he was a magician, and to be a magician was to be a secret spring–a moving oasis. […Magic wasn’t] tame, domesticated. Magic was wild feelings, the kind that escaped out of you and into the world and changed things.”