— WARNING! THIS CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL —
A few months ago, I wrote a spoiler-free Magician’s Land, but here’s the spoiler version.
After talking it over with two of my friends, I learned that we were drawn to it in very different ways. My friends Stacy and Tracy zeroed in on thematic and interpersonal aspects. I wish I could add more of my two cents but they did such a good job and I was too busy typing madly. As I mentioned in my spoiler-free Magician’s Land review, I was and am still enamored by the strength of its craftsmanship on a very mechanical level: the pacing, the weaving together of different story lines, its careful and self-aware existence within the YA fantasy genre. While it’s many ways an adult book, it is very indebted to Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and even Brandon Sanderson.
Below is an edited transcript as we discussed the role of Quentin’s absent father played in the shaping of Fillory 2.0, atonement, humanity, and stories.
God, the Cosmic Clockmaker, and Daddy Issues
Stacy: I feel like the lack of relationship with his father inspires him to let go of being the god of Fillory. He feels like the father of the Fillory, but since Quentin didn’t need is dad, he feels that Fillory doesn’t need him. It almost feels like it glorifies the lack of relationship with his father.
Tracy: One of the themes of the book is that you cannot rely on someone else’s world to fulfill your needs, and to not fall into that trap you need to build your own world.
Stacy: But you can’t pretend bad things don’t exist. That is what Martin Chatwin did wrong, and then he’s gone for good.
Tracy: It harkens back to Quentin’s relationship with Alice and his belief that it would solve itself it you ignored.
Stacy: You have to confront your problems, Umber Ember.
Tracy: Aslan cared a lot about the children, but he cares more about Narnia, not how can we rehabilitate Susan. Susan is not allowed back in.
Stacy: Fillory is a Narnia refuge for Martin to get away from Plover, and when that one safe place is denied, he turned into monster. The Gods were like children too, they didn’t confront how things were changing. Change was thrust upon them. Gods are fallible and doesn’t know best.
Tracy: Most actual gods are fallible. Sometimes people in charge were fallible. There is also this cyclical nature of stories, the land metaphor for your own head space. Quentin could finally achieve happiness and stop relying on his other people’s stories. He still exercises other books to make his own story; in his own story, he discuses the story he had to go through. Storytelling a way of getting emotions straight.
Stacy: Alice says your land is your shit. From the beginning, the Magicians is a very bitter series, wants to tear down everything i liked as a kid. You can’t just have magic; that’s not how it works.
Tracy: One of my favorite parts in first book is the first scene that Chatwin appears in the classroom. This is what happens when you do magic, you don’t check out the numbers. This is a good representation of Grossman’s mindset. It deals with consequences. It’s the opposite of Harry Potter. Quentin and Plum are expelled for their hijinks. Weasley twins would not survive Brakebills, you can’t mess with it, you’ll get killed. not going to fix Alice and Quentin’s relationship.
Stacy: Julia doesn’t have humanity. Martin doesn’t have humanity. To be a god, you can’t be human.
The Problem of Alice the Niffin and Humanity at Large
Tracy: I liked everything, but I wish there was more put on the final relationship with Alice. She has this amazing monologue, and my jaw just dropped; it was so good. He thinks he gets off the hook. It’s okay, I’m going to humanize with bacon and sex. And then she’s back to normal by the end of book. Seven years as a demon, she could spend a little more time to rehabilitate.
She has an edge for a while and she says terrible things without second thoughts, not original tendency even if it’s her secret self. I wish there was more interplay between the two so she can reclaim humanity at her own space.
Stacy: Quentin has been a shitty boyfriend and his final act of selfishness was to bring back Alice without asking her if she wanted it.
Tracy: I wish Quentin was more introspective. He had the idea, he had good motives, but he breaks the fantasy trope, never bring people back from the dead.
Stacy: She’s not dead, she’s transformed. There could have been more dialogue about it though. She used to be too meek, but she went along.
Tracy: It should have took place sooner, there’s not enough time to play it out.
Stacy: It reminds me of Janet’s conversation with Umber. He did it because Martin wanted him to.
Tracy: Doing what a person wants is not the best, because sometimes he knows better or should know better. Both of those relationships are so full of assumptions. Quentin assumed too much.
Characters try to atone in unhealthy ways. Quentin and friends reached a pretty good place. Elliot has taken a lot of responsibility, Janet had that one good experience, you can’t go snagging other lands without having answer for it. She had to watch Fillory self-destruct, it was almost funny in a way it shouldn’t have been. Something in their mind, self-destructing, Janet has this tiny moment of self-awareness about seducing Quentin.
That moment above everything, air of detachment, she was watching it in acceptance. Elliot and Quentin are practically the same thing. Elliot is atoning. He lucked out on Quentin’s misfortune and decides to be the best high king possible. As high queen, Janet witnesses the horror. Elliot was a better king, Quentin is a magician in a tradition sense, never as good as dealing with things. Quentin ccn’t make big decisions. He zoomed into Fillory and fixed it, but it is not his place to rule. He is the mender of small things.
Stacy: Umber never explains the reason for exile.
Tracy: Taintedness is part of adulthood, more mature in trauma, lose your innocence.
Stacy: It verifies what we talked about earlier, Quentin & Elliot get to stay, because Fillory already tainted. Since Martin introduced corruption, he can never go back. Martin grew up too quickly, because he was forced to grow up because of Plover.
Tracy: It brings me back to the journal. Was it even healthy to have an obsession with Fillory, obsession of being children? Such terrible things happen in the real world, that Fillory was the only place they could be themselves.
Stacy: When Christpher Plover wrote these books, it’s true we felt this way, but it wasn’t healthy or positive thing. It was completely fucked up, shouldn’t have done it. It glorifies childhood. Rupert never really grew up, he admits it. None of us grew up after Fillory, we buried it deep inside us. We never confronted our childhood in the way we’re supposed to.
Tracy: Towards end of book, it shifted. You have to let go of Fillory but you can still be attached to your childhood.
Stacy: Its like his parents’ house, he is sent to his family house, he looks at it, and walks away.