Now you see them…

I’ve just finished “The Magician’s Land,” the third book in Lev Grossman’s triology (after “The Magicians” and “The Magician King”) about a parallel world (or worlds) of magic and magicians existing alongside, or perhaps hidden within, the “real” world. Sound familiar? One of the things I’ve always admired about the series is that Grossman tackled it at the height of Harry Potter mania, with, at least on the surface, a similar conceit: students with magical abilities unbeknownst to themselves are tapped to attend a school for magic, in this case a college, Brakebills, hidden in upstate New York. Grossman combines this Hogwarts-like setting with adventures in Fillory, a Narnia-esque world written about in a series of children’s books that of course call to mind “The Chronicles of Narnia.” But this is no mere pastiche, and similarities with the lands created by J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis end abruptly. Grossman’s prose is sharp, profane and exquisitely descriptive: it’s as if Stephen King and Jonathan Franzen co-wrote the Narnia books. “God, but he loved doing magic,” says protagonist Quentin Coldwater, back at Brakebills at the beginning of “The Magician’s Land” after being expelled from Fillory. “He’d almost forgotten how satisfying it was, even the little things. Doing magic was like finally finding the words you’d been groping for your whole life.”

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