Tue
Aug 12 2014 9:30am

Adieu, Fillory! Here’s What Happened in The Magician’s Land

Lev Grossman Magicians trilogy

Last week, Lev Grossman concluded his fantasy trilogy—The Magicians—in totally epic style. It turns out, not only is the magical land of Fillory real in these books, but in our world too, thus making all the Magicians books retroactively works of autobiography, complete with a meta-“LEV GROSSMAN” character who becomes Fillory’s narrator.

PSYCH. No. But pretty much ALL THE COOL STUFF happened in The Magician’s Land. If you’re a fan of this sly, brilliant series, here’s a guide to what went down in its final installment.

MASSIVE SPOILERS for The Magician’s Land, The Magician King, and The Magicians.

(You also probably should slow down right now if you haven’t finished all the Harry Potter books, The Narnia Chronicles, or if you’re like, a Steve Rogers type and you’ve missed all pop-culture in the past several decades)

But serious, turn back now. Because , in no particular order, The Magician’s Land spoilers start now:

 

All the Feelings

The Magician’s Land, like its predecessor, The Magician King, is something of a departure from its previous installment, at least in terms of structure. Whereas the first book pretty much stuck with a close/limited third person point-of-view with Quentin, the second book provided two narrative viewpoints: one of Quentin in the present, and another of the Julia in the recent past.

But, that’s baby stuff for The Magician’s Land, which has close-third person POV sections with Quentin, Elliot, Janet, Alice, and Plum, plus an embedded first person epistolary section from Rupert Chatwin. Because so much happens in not only the magical world of Fillory, but also Earth, the Neitherlands, and beyond, Lev Grossman wants to make sure you’re going to feel every single thing from nearly every person’s perspective. Interestingly, though, no close-third perspective with the last novel’s star, Julia.

Back from the Dead!

Two characters, previously believed dead are brought back to flesh and blood. Most relevantly is Alice, Quentin’s girlfriend from the first book, who was “killed” and turned into a Niffin, which is in essence an insane ghost/demon. Here, Alice begins the book by haunting everyone, and ends up becoming flesh-and-blood-again towards the last third.

In another back-from-the-dead twist, Umber, brother of the Ram-God Ember, makes a surprise appearance. We previously thought Umber was dead and killed by Martin Chatwin/The Beast. But it turns out he was actually a double-crosser, previously in league with Martin Chatwin. (Martin Chatwin does not return.)

Julia Avenged

In the previous book, Quentin’s high school-crush Julia is revealed to have had an alternate magical career which culminating in being part of group called Free Trader Beowulf. In search of super deep magic, this group ends up having a horrific and tragic showdown with an “Old God,” called Reynard the Fox, who killed most of the Free Traders and raped Julia. These characters remain dead in The Magician’s Land, but one survivor named Asmodeus (also called Asmo, but here initially disguised as “Betsy.” Really!) turns up. We learn she killed Reynard with a god-killing special weapon, which we later learn was stolen by Martin Chatwin from a bizarro Fillory several years prior.

Bizarro Fillory

Well, not bizarro, technically, but at two points in the novel—one in a sort of flashback, and one in the “present”—we find out about “Castle Blackspire,” which is just like Castle Whitespire, only, yep, everything is evil and creepy. You will feel silly for not knowing what a “mirror image” actually means.

Let’s Turn Into Magical Animals

The first book famously had the students at the magical school Brakebills turn into geese for a flight to Antarctica, and later, little foxes who rolled around and well…played with each other? This time, Quentin and his new friend Plum turn into giant blue whales! And as it turns out, other blue whales are totally magic.

What Did Janet Do While Everyone Was Gone Last Time?

In terms of narrative attention, Janet definitely got left out of the majority of the action in The Magician King, but that’s corrected here. Not only do we get a direct insight into how she feels about Fillory during its final hours, but also what adventures she had while Quentin and Eliot were on the Far Side of the World in the second book. Essentially, Janet went into the desert, tried to annex some people, had them take her in, experienced them trying to throw her under the bus, and then became an even bigger badass than she was in the previous books. Coolly, Janet now wields ice-axes, which just look like sticks until the ice-ax part needs to magically appear. When Josh asks her where she got them at one point she says, “your mom gave them to me.”

More Chatwins!

The book’s new character, Plum, an almost-senior at Brakebills, is also revealed to be a long-lost direct relative of the Chatwin children. This means her association with Fillory and its magic runs super-deep.

Also, through the form of an old school letter/diary/memoir, we get to know Rupert Chatwin, the younger brother of Martin Chatwin, who explains in detail his version of what happened in Fillory and how those events differ from the “Christopher Plover,” books.

Quentin Becomes a Teacher, Gets a Discipline

In The Magician’s Land, Quentin is kicked out of Fillory, and sent back to Earth. Nearing exactly 30-years-old now, Quentin has to do something with himself, so he heads back to his alma matter Brakebills and asks for a job. Weirdly, they give him one with little fuss. He also FINALLY learns what his specialization in magic is, his discipline. It’s “Minor Mendings,” which means he can fix small objects with magic. Even if this sounds lame, it turns out it’s totally essential. Oh, and he also gets fired from his teaching job pretty quick.

Fillory is Destroyed/Saved

Because the magic of Fillory is basically running out and its time is over, there’s a straight-up apocalypse near the end of the book which results in an all-out chaotic battle between literally all the creatures, great and small. It’s terrifying and awesome at the same time. But it also all gets totally fixed. How? Even that I won’t spoil here.

Quentin Makes a New Land

About halfway through the book, Quentin and Plum stumble upon an ancient spell for actually creating a new magical land totally from scratch. This is like Lev Grossman’s Genesis Device (from Star Trek II) It requires tons of magical power, and the initial land Quentin creates totally backfires. Instead of being unique at all, it’s instead a sort of a Neil Gaiman-esque “other house” which creepily mirrors the Manhattan apartment he and Plum are crashing at. This “land,” ends up having portals inside of it which lead to other faux-lands, which also briefly hint at the idea of time travel. It isn’t an alternate dimension with alternate versions of anyone or anything—it’s just sort of a creepy, non-living place. It’s also haunted by the ghost of Alice.

But eventually Quentin gets rid of this land, and by the end of the book he makes a totally new one. This one has an outdoors and is seemingly acting as a bridge between Fillory and other worlds. The final scenes of the book see Quentin and Alice surveying their new land and deciding to fly.

 

What did you think of The Magician’s Land? Where there any plotlines you wish had been revisited? What was your favorite scene? Who do you think got the best lines in this book? If you were a magician would you roll the dice and try to create your own “land?”

Comment below!


Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com.

9 comments
Null-I
1. Null-I
As payoff lines go,

“She gutted him like a furry red fish.”

was rather lovely, wasn't it?
Null-I
2. Feathers McGraw
Ok first of all: Alice punching Penny is the best thing ever.

Second best thing ever is Janet's desert story.

Also: With the Alice storyline, I kept waiting for a Buffy reference - remember when she was resurrected and depressed about it? Maybe a bit too flippant but it would have been perfect.

I feel so sorry for the bird! What happened to the bird?

Lastly: What happens to Stoppard? I want a book about him!
Null-I
3. Null-I, again
I rather liked the decision to have Asmo's revenge off stage --- it was no less effective for that. And it was lovely how she was shown to us, anew and without prejudice, in the classy little heist caper. (I just loved 'The Couple' --- though if it was a reference, I missed it.)

The returning to the flesh of Alice --- the bacon, champagne, chocolate, sex --- pulled the heartstrings as it was supposed to, evoked all its many genre pedecessors (Sam gambling, in Lord of Light; etc & co), teared me up, made me smile, but I thought was still slightly lessened by the absence of a knowing cynical neuro-pyschological over narrative. These are NY preppie kids --- they're used to being medicated up to the gills. The method for binding a body is fine, but they wouldnt do it without wryly commenting on how cliche it is, how passe mind body dualism is in these days of neurochemicals and consciousness.

It was very funny, and a very knowing book. Great structure. Lots of good lines, literary references, strongly anchored in a NY culture, with gaming/hedge fund managers/ failed physics PhD culture.

Smart, really smart.
Chuk Goodin
4. Chuk
I loved the book but the blue whale section was especially magical.
Null-I
5. Emanate
I nearly cried at the end, when they finally revealed what the mysterious plant was, all along.

Also: {pedant} Rupert stole the god-killer dagger and the land-making spell, not Martin. {/pedant}

Loved this book so much. :-}
Null-I
6. AndrewV
I felt like these books were mediocre at best. In many parts they were just plain bad.
Null-I
7. Amanda Choo Quan
I teeter back and forth between really liking this trilogy and finding all its characters truly insufferable.
Null-I
8. Davidiophiliac
Just finished the book. One unexplained dangling thread, who were the magician couple they stole Rupert Chatwins bag/suitcase from? Did I miss something, or is this intentionally opaque?
Null-I
9. SpiralSide
i havent quite finished the book yet so i may figure out the answer but what the fuck happened between alice and quinton after she cheated on him with penny, i am really busy otherwise id read ahead to find out

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