Friday, August 01, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: 'The Magician's Land'

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Gilbert Cruz of Vulture.com reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader.

"Magic is a craft. When we do magic, we do not wish and we do not pray. We rely upon our will and our knowledge and our skill to make a specific change to the world." So says one character in "The Magicians," the first volume in Lev Grossman's series of fantasy novels about a young man, the school of magic that he attends in upstate New York, and the Narnia-esque land that he and his friends find themselves transported to.

Five years later, Grossman, book critic at TIME Magazine and author of many of that newsweekly’s culture and science cover stories, has released "The Magician's Land," the very satisfying final book in his trilogy.

The series has been spoken of over and over again as "Harry Potter for adults." Which it kind of is. These characters drink and curse and have ill-advised sex, all while casting spells and encountering mystical creatures and evil villains. But there are no wands or tall hats to be found. Magic here is more akin to a field of deep mathematics. You can only cast a spell by using intricate finger positions and reciting page after page of calculations and equations.

Magic is hard, and you have to work up a sweat to do it well.

This third book, at turns a heist story, a meditation on the act of creation, and an apocalyptic disaster tale, continues the adventures of main character Quentin Coldwater. It mixes genre deconstruction with psychological realism, full of self-aware figures who are cognizant of all the tropes of fantasy fiction, while at the same time working to fulfill those tropes or push against them.

There are great swaths of high imagination in "The Magician's Land," evocative passages that contain entire worlds. Writing, like magic, is a craft, and Grossman performs it oh so well.

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