LEV GROSSMAN is the book critic for Time magazine and the author of five novels, including the international bestseller Codex and the New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy. A graduate of Harvard and Yale, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.
Excerpt from book:
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2014 by Lev Grossman
The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.
It wasn’t much of a night for it: early March, drizzling and cold but not quite cold enough for snow. It wasn’t much of a bookstore either. Quentin spent fifteen minutes watching it from a bus shelter at the edge of the empty parking lot, rain drumming on the plastic roof and making the asphalt shine in the streetlights. Not one of your charming, quirky bookstores, with a ginger cat on the windowsill and a shelf of rare signed first editions and an eccentric, bewhiskered proprietor behind the counter. This was just another strip-mall outpost of a struggling chain, squeezed in between a nail salon and a party City, twenty minutes outside Hackensack off the New Jersey turnpike.
Satisfied, Quentin crossed the parking lot. The enormous bearded cashier didn’t look up from his phone when the door jingled. Inside you could still hear the noise of cars on the wet road, like long strips of paper tearing, one after another. The only unexpected touch was a wire birdcage in one corner, but where you would have expected a parrot or a cockatoo inside there was a fat blue-black bird instead. That’s how un-charming this store was: it had a crow in a cage.
Quentin didn’t care. It was a bookstore, and he felt at home in bookstores, and he hadn’t had that feeling much lately. he was going to enjoy it. He pushed his way back through the racks of greeting cards and cat calendars, back to where the actual books were, his glasses steaming up and his coat dripping on the thin carpet. It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.
The store should have been empty, coming up on nine o’clock on a cold rainy Thursday night, but instead it was full of people. They browsed the shelves silently, each one on his or her own, slowly wandering the aisles like sleepwalkers. a jewel-faced girl with a pixie cut was reading Dante in Italian. a tall boy with large curious eyes who couldn’t have been older than sixteen was absorbed in a tom Stoppard play. a middle-aged black man with elfin cheekbones stood staring at the biographies through thick, iridescent glasses. You would almost have thought they’d come there to buy books. But Quentin knew better.
He wondered if it would be obvious, if he would know right away, or if there would be a trick to it. If they’d make him guess. he was getting to be a pretty old dog—he’d be thirty this year—but this particular game was new to him. At least it was warm inside. He took off his glasses and wiped them with a cloth. he’d just gotten them a couple of months ago, the price of a lifetime of reading fine print, and they were still an unfamiliar presence on his face: a windshield between him and the world, always slip- ping down his nose and getting smudged when he pushed them up again. When he put them back on he noticed a sharp-featured young woman, girl-next-door pretty, if you happened to live next door to a grad student in astrophysics. She was standing in a corner paging through a big, expensive architectural-looking volume. Piranesi drawings: vast shadowy vaults and cellars and prisons, haunted by great wooden engines.
Quentin knew her. Her name was plum. She felt him watching her and l
“Richly imagined and continually surprising. . . . 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 Magician’s Land, more than any other book in the trilogy, wrestles with the question of humanity. . . . This is a gifted writer, and his gifts are at their apex in The Magician’s Land.”
—Edan Lepucki, The New York Times Book Review
“The strength of the trilogy lies . . . in the characters, whose inner lives and frailties Grossman renders with care and empathy. . . . Quentin[’s] . . . magical journey is deeply human.”
—The New Yorker
“[A] wonderful trilogy. . . . If the Narnia books were like catnip for a certain kind of kid, these books are like crack for a certain kind of adult. . . . Brakebills graduates can have a hard time adjusting to life outside, though some distract themselves by lazily meddling in world affairs (e.g., the election of 2000). Readers of Mr. Grossman’s mesmerizing trilogy might experience the same kind of withdrawal upon finishing The Magician’s Land. Short of wishing that a fourth book could suddenly appear by magic, there’s not much we can do about it.”
—Sarah Lyall, The New York Times
“Grossman makes it clear in the deepening complexity and widening scope of each volume that he understands the pleasures and perils of stories and believing in them. . . . The Magician's Land triumphantly answers the essential questions at the heart of the series, about whether magic belongs to childhood alone, whether reality trumps fantasy, even whether we have the power to shape our own lives in an indifferent universe.”
—Gwenda Bond, The Los Angeles Times
“A wholly satisfying and stirring conclusion to this weird and wonderful tale. . . . Relentlessly subversive and inventive. . . . Grossman can . . . write like a magician. . . . [He] reminds us that good writing can beguile the senses, imagination and intellect. The door at the back of the book is still there, and we can go back to those magical lands, older and wiser, eager for the re-enchantment.”
—Keith Donohue, The Washington Post
“A huge part of the pleasure of this trilogy in general and this volume in particular is that, even as we consume the story just to find out what happens to Quentin, we know that we are collaborating in our own versions of its creation, its animation. The reader gets to be a magician, too.”
—Nancy Klingener, The Miami Herald
“[A] stirring finale to Grossman’s acclaimed trilogy.”
“The Magician’s Land . . . does all the things you want in a third book: winding up everyone's stories, tying up the loose ends -- and giving you a bit more than you bargained for. . . . Starting very early in Magician's Land, Grossman kicks off a series of escalating magical battles, each more fantastic, taut, and brutal than the last, which comes to a head in the final chapters with a world-shattering Götterdämmerung scene that stands with great war at the climax of The Return of the King. At the same time, Grossman never loses sight of the idea of magic as unknowable and unsystematized, a thread of Borgesian Big Weird that culminates in a beautiful tribute to Borges himself. It's this welding togeth