Some trilogies work well when the author tries to have every book tell a story in a very different way. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them.
I adore heist stories, but this one jumped us right into the middle of the heist story line without really explaining how Quentin got to that position. Instead, we are given flashbacks to events earlier in the year. Which works as a stand-alone device, but was a bit jarring for a reader who had started to expect a narrative pattern by this point. (It also made it harder to sympathize with Quentin’s motivations when we didn’t know the history behind them right away.)
Other than that major hiccup, the actually stories that this book told were well done. Quentin has finally come into his own as a magician, and even though he’s been cast out of what he views as his true home (twice over), he’s making the best go of it he can. From a “scholarly” perspective (even though that particular discipline doesn’t actually exist in our world), Quentin’s quest to create a particular spell is a fascinating return to what this trilogy was really supposed to be about: magic and how it works. The fact that he comes pretty close to getting his happily ever after by the end of it is a nice bonus.
His female “sidekick” for this book is my favorite out of the bunch. The thing that entertains me the most is that it’s almost obvious that Grossman does intend for Alice, Julia, and Plum to be foils to Quentin, but ends up making them much more interesting characters. Plum proves that not everyone who ends up in Brakebills is wounded in some emotional or mental level, but also that sometimes it’s Brakebills that wounds you instead. But in contrast with, well, everyone else in the trilogy, Plum takes the punches and rolls with them. In the end, I think the decision to have her be the character most connected but least influenced by Fillory was a smart move.
This trilogy did not leave me wanting more of the world, but it did leave me wanting more of some of the characters. Plum, especially, still has a lot of potential to intrigue, adventure, and greatness.
Currently reading: Star Trek Enterprise: Last Full Measure by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels (43%)