"That was one thing about books: once you read them they couldn't be unread." The third book in Lev Grossman's stunning "Magicians trilogy" were as engrossing (if not more) than the first in the series, The Magicians (read about my thoughts on that one, from August 2011 oh boy). The story is simple. The protagonist is Quentin Coldwater, a twenty-something who has been educated at a college for magicians and is now king of a magical land that he once believed to be fictional. Saving the world shenanigans ensue. But the emotional punch that the stories pack is so much more than the story. The third book in the trilogy begins with an epigraph excerpted from C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!" and the story begins: "The letter had said to meet in a bookstore..." And further in to the story the readers go. Lev Grossman has combined Chronicles of Narnia with the darker sides of Harry Potter and Donna Tart's The Secret History to create his Magicians trilogy.
It captures Quentin finding himself (as cliché as that is) through something as absurd as magic and it makes it feel real. The Magician King, the second book in the series, alternates POVs with Quentin and Julia, and Julia's story tells of depression and what you have to give up to get what you want. What you have to go through, what depths you allow yourself to sink, before you achieve your goals. The Magician's Land, as the NYT book review writes (and I wholeheartedly agree with): "The Magician’s Land is the strongest book in Grossman’s series. It not only offers a satisfying conclusion to Quentin Coldwater’s quests, earthly and otherwise, but also considers complex questions about identity and selfhood as profound as they are entertaining." The minutia of the magic gets a little tedious at times, but the story is quick-paced and enjoyable. The characters grow over the series and Quentin turns way more likeable and supporting characters get fleshed-out backstories. The series is also being turned into a TV show premiering in 2016, so if you want to stay ahead of the pop-culture curve, read on! I'll end with a great quote from the third book, after Quentin stumbles into a bookstore: "It didn't matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home." Rating: ★★★★★