Tag Archives | magic

The Magician’s Land | Lev Grossman

The cover of Grossman's The Magician's LandIt’s time to return to Brakebills, to Fillory, to the world of Quentin Coldwater.

When we left Quentin at the end of The Magician King, he was banished from his beloved land. We meet him in The Magician’s Land walking into an under-average looking bookstore on earth trying to figure out how to live a meaningful life.

A meaningful life is the underlying theme of the Magician Trilogy. In each volume we see Quentin transform from a self-centered angst-ridden prodigy to something deeper. The Magician’s Land finishes this transformation in fantastic style. Grossman pulls together a number of old plot threads into a completely satisfying concluding volume.

The Magician’s Trilogy ranks among the finest Fantasy literature around. I’m proud to shelve these volumes beside Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, and of course, C. S. Lewis.

—Lev Grossman, The Magician’s Land (New York: Plume, 2014).

The Magician King | Lev Grossman

The cover of Grossman's The Magician KingQuentin still can’t get no satisfaction.

This was the main theme of the first novel of the Magician Trilogy (The Magicians). The emptiness in your life follows you even if you accomplish the things you long for. You can’t put a square block in a round hole. The Magician King begins with King Quentin still longing for that missing something.

What Quentin gets is a quest—a massive, no holds barred quest for the future of the entire multiverse. The plot is unpredictable and satisfying, at least for the reader. For Quentin, it’s another story.

I suppose we’ll find out in Volume Three, The Magician’s Land, if Quentin ever learns, let alone finds what he’s looking for.

—Lev Grossman, The Magician King (New York: Plume, 2011).

The Magicians | Lev Grossman

The cover of Grossman's The MagiciansHarry Potter meets Narnia, the blurbers promised! What’s not to love?

The Magicians is a novel where a socially awkward kid finds out that he has amazing powers. The blurbers were right—almost to a fault. The first half of the book concerns a magician’s school while the second half explores alternate universes. Rowling meets Lewis, indeed! My only criticism was that the nods to Potter and Narnia felt too derivative at times. I quickly got over that.

This book gripped me from the first until the last page. Grossman has written a lead character that acts as realistically as you might expect in the situation he’s given. He makes the sort of decisions any one of us might make in the same circumstances.

The villain is truly terrifying and the magic system is complex and satisfying. I’m curious to see where the next books takes us!

—Lev Grossman, The Magicians (New York: Plume, 2009).

The Empire of the Ants | H. G. Wells

In high school I became infatuated with the fathers of science fiction: Jules Verne & H. G. Wells. After having read many of his famous works (The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Time Machine to name a few), it was a pleasure to find a slim collection of his short stories.

This Scholastic Publication contains five stories:

  1. The Empire of the Ants (1905)
  2. The Country of the Blind (1904)
  3. The Crystal Egg (1897)
  4. The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1898)
  5. The Magic Shop (1903)

Two of the stories really stand out. “The Country of the Blind” explores the old proverb, “In the Country of the Blind the One-eyed Man is King”. The unconventional twist (although not entirely unexpected) fires the reader’s imagination. “The Crystal Egg” reminded me of C. S. Lewis’ unfinished The Dark Tower. Come to think of it, the idea of a crystal orb granting vision resonates with Stephen King’s Dark Tower books as well.

Unfortunately, the rest of the stories are at or below average. They might have been titillating in an age where science fiction was novel but they don’t stand up as well today. Unless you’re an H. G. Wells completist, stick to his major works of science fiction.

Elantris | Brandon Sanderson

  • Elantris © 2006
  • Tor Fantasy
  • 656 pages

How does a world carry on when its gods die? How does the political machine grind on in an immediate catastrophic power vacuum? Can a dystopic future can be reversed? Sanderson tackles all these questions in the form of a mystery novel set in a fantastic setting.

The lead theme in this volume is leadership. What role can good leadership play in the face of overwhelming odds? What effect does weak leadership have on a nation? Of course, the religion plays a lead role in this discussion, as it does in all of Sanderson’s works.

Sanderson excels at planting enough foreshadowing in the text to alert the thinking reader just before major events happen. I found myself cluing in to what was about to happen a number of times just before the events or epiphanies transpired.

Elantris is a fine novel that grips you in the preface and refuses to let go until you lay the book down sometime well after midnight.

Warbreaker | Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker is a large stand-alone fantasy novel with sequel potential. In it, Brandon Sanderson did what he does best: created a magic system that provides mystery and depth to character interactions.

Having read the Mistborn trilogy, it was nice to see some twists on the themes he developed. In particular, the details about this world’s Lord Ruler equivalent are quite unexpected.

Like the Mistborn magic system, the Warbreaker mythos has one source of power that can be accessed in various ways which have been discovered by various cultures. This allows Sanderson to play with ideas about religion and multiple routes to the divine.

While the mystery and the magic system were excellent, the political posturing felt a little too simplistic. Nations don’t behave in such predictable fashions. That said, I’ll still read the sequel.

Ezekiel 13:17-23: Wicked Witches

We cannot generate faith ourselves.
We cannot possess greater faith
by fostering or facilitating something inside our psyches.
There is no incantation, meditative technique, guru-gimmick or mystical magic
by which we can generate faith out of our own resources.
— Victor Shepherd (Seasons of Grace)

As the exiles began to make their home in foreign lands, a group of women decided to make a play to gain influence in the community. Borrowing ideas from the land they had been thrust into, they sewed magical armbands and bound amulets around their foreheads.

These female magicians gained power over people with a false displays of spiritual prowess. They ensnared their prey like a hunter captures a bird.

. . .

It’s uncanny how relevant this passage is today. To be sure, there’s not a lot of witches vying for power in our churches. The threat is much more subtle. The goal of these magicians was to dazzle their people through false spirituality to gain power in the community. This happens often today—with both men and women.

Let’s look at some false displays of spiritual power:

  • Prayer cloths: Do you really think God needs a piece of cotton blessed by a spiritual leader to answer your prayer? Could it be possible that he just wants to hear from you?
  • Holy water: Television evangelism wouldn’t be complete without seeing someone offer a vial of holy
    water from the Jordan river that Jesus was baptized in. Holy anointing oil from olive trees in Israel is another play on the same theme. Is God bound to act just because someone has taken some water or oil from the place he walked through a couple thousand years ago?
  • Point of contact: Another staple in the modern spiritual racket is to place your hand on the television as a point of contact for faith to be released. Again, can you picture God in heaven biting his nails saying, “if she would only touch the screen, I could really do something for her”?
  • Belief-ism: There’s a misguided idea out there that if you can just think hard enough and actually believe that you have received a miracle, you will get it. That’s not faith: faith is a solid trust in Jesus.  And by the way, Jesus said that a minuscule amount of faith—the size of a mustard seed—was all that we needed to move mountains.

God is not some celestial magician divvying up his power to people who go through the right motions or say the right things. He is a loving Father who wants to hear from his children and do what’s best for them. Don’t be deceived by charlatans pimping the latest marketing fad in the name if Jesus.

. . .

God will not be mocked by these scams forever. In Ezekiel’s day, he said that he would tear the bands of their arms and set their captives free to fly away like a bird from its captor. God will show the magicians that he is Lord, and they cannot presume to speak for him and control his actions.

. . .

Loving Father, help us to rely on you for our security. When we’re in trouble remind us to run to you before anyone else. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 13:1-16 | False Prophets

Ezekiel 14:1-11 | Heart Idolatry >

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