By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
Add Lev Grossman to entertaining stories of magic, mythical lands, and magicians in modern literature. Even if this is a listener’s first exposure to Grossman’s trilogy, it is an enjoyable adventure that reminds one of the wonderland of Narnia and the magic of Harry Potter.
Grossman may abjure comparison to C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling but The Magician’s Land borrows some of the imaginative ideas of Lewis and Rowling; e.g. a portal to another world for children to be kings and queens, and a hide-a-way’ school to exclusively recruit and teach magicians. However, Grossman’s tale is not confined by Christian symbolism or moral sorcery. There is good and evil in Grossman’s story but it is not related to God or gods. There is sorcery but it is practiced by magicians that make mistakes engendered by human nature.
Like Rowling’s vision of humanity, Grossman infers most people on earth are muggles (people who lack any magical abilities), but a few are magicians. They are chosen to attend a school of magic to develop their skills. Unlike Hogwarts, Grossman’s school is in a remote corner of earth. The chosen children are candidates for passage to a magical land because they bear the innocence of youth.
Grossman’s magical land is Fillory, a land of giants, talking animals, half-man/half-beasts, Kings, Queens, and gods. Fillory is near its eve of destruction because all life has a beginning and an end. Kings and Queens of Fillory are special children that pass through a portal between earth and the magical land. In Fillory’s beginning, as children approach puberty, they are forbidden passage through the portal, but as the story progresses, pre-pubescent qualification is no longer strictly enforced. Lack of enforcement dooms The Magician’s Land.
An Imaginary Glimpse of Fillory:
Lack of enforcement begins with one young boy, nearing the age of puberty, who is denied return to Fillory. Grossman infers the young boy misses the innocence of youth because he is the oldest of three orphaned children. Being the oldest, he takes the role of a father that exposes him to the adult world of responsibility, long before his time. The irony of responsibility is loss of innocence. Loss of innocence is part of the reason for his exclusion from Fillory. Though the young boy loves Fillory, he feels cheated by its gate keepers. The circumstances of his earth-bound’ life deprive him of childhood, his passport to The Magician’s Land.
By stint of will and knowledge of magic, the young boy forces his return to The Magician’s Land; he becomes King, a King of a mirror-world of Fillory. The Fillory of pre-pubescent innocence is clothed in light and white; while the mirrored world is dark and black. The young rebel remains in Fillory, past his puberty. The boy is one of the original children of the Chatwin family to become first Kings in The Magician’s Land.
However, The Magician’s Land is not about this rebellious boy. The boy’s rebellion is only the beginning of a chain of events. This third book is about the prophecy of Fillory’s end. Unlike Rowling’s saga of good against evil, Grossman’s theme is about the cycle of life. It is about humankind’s birth, maturation, and death and how age and experience affect human nature.
Fillory has two gods that are talking sheep. They have the power to create and destroy worlds. One is the god of light; the other, the god of dark. As gods of creation, they mostly graze and observe nature as it takes its course in the worlds they create. They, like Greek gods, have little care for other living things.
The Chatwin family is the royal first family of Fillory. Offspring of the Chatwins live in two worlds, earth and The Magician’s Land. The Chatwin’ family offspring are magicians. They are catalysts for change, both good and evil. They are two sides of a coin, otherwise known as human nature; nature that evolves as human’s mature. Grossman’s tale infers most of humanity is corrupted by maturity.
The Chatwins and fellow magicians are catalysts of destruction and resurrection in The Magician’s Land. The Chatwin’ and chosen portal travelers are symbols of human nature; i.e. just as human nature is the spark of life, it is the force of death in Fillory. Innocent and corrupt human nature is the same spark and force on earth.
Whether there is a God or gods; whether there is magic or not, Grossman infers humanity is on its own–the hope of earth (or other world’s) is in the uncorrupted innocence of children grown into leaders.