I really liked this book. I thought this series did a great job of building from one book to the next and letting the characters grow.
The book was a little difficult to get into, mostly because the timeline isn’t very consistent in the beginning of the book. The point of view bounces around between two characters, and has flashbacks for each character. Keeping track of where and when you are while reading took some time. Once the context of the flashbacks was understood, the book falls into a more natural narrative and hits it’s stride.
The characters are excellent and well developed, with a lot of depth and personality. Quentin, in particular, has grown immensely since the first book, and certain events in this one highlight just how much he’s matured. He’s no longer the nihilistic and inexperienced boy he started as, but is a grown and confident man who understands who he is and how he gained that knowledge. I remember reading the first book and thinking that none of the characters were particularly likeable, but in this book, all the returning characters are true heroes that are easy to root for (except maybe Penny, he’s still a jerk). Not everything goes their way, but they make legitimate attempts to do the right thing.
Another aspect of the book that was really nice was how Fillory itself changed throughout the series. In the first book, it’s obviously an interpretation of Narnia, with all it’s wonder. Here, Fillory has changed and matured, just as Quentin has. It’s no longer the perfect realm of magic, but it has deep problems and flaws that are just as difficult to deal with as those in the real world. They were always there, but it’s only now, that the characters have grown up, that they’re able to see them.
The conclusion to the book is great. I’m of the opinion that an appropriate ending that makes sense within the story is always preferable to a happy ending that’s forced into the narrative. Getting both is really satisfying, and it’s rare that a series concludes in a really satisfying way. This one does. The ending wraps up the main story, but also makes it clear that it isn’t the end of the characters, and that they’ll still have other, new adventures. They make peace with what’s happened, but use their experiences to better themselves. The entire series got better with each book, and The Magician’s Land is a fantastic close.