#1 New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
ONE OF THE YEAR'S BEST BOOKS
The San Francisco Chronicle
Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
From the cover
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2014 by Lev Grossman
The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.
It wasn't much of a night for it: early March, drizzling and cold but not quite cold enough for snow. It wasn't much of a bookstore either. Quentin spent fifteen minutes watching it from a bus shelter at the edge of the empty parking lot, rain drumming on the plastic roof and making the asphalt shine in the streetlights. Not one of your charming, quirky bookstores, with a ginger cat on the windowsill and a shelf of rare signed first editions and an eccentric, bewhiskered proprietor behind the counter. This was just another strip-mall outpost of a struggling chain, squeezed in between a nail salon and a party City, twenty minutes outside Hackensack off the New Jersey turnpike.
Satisfied, Quentin crossed the parking lot. The enormous bearded cashier didn't look up from his phone when the door jingled. Inside you could still hear the noise of cars on the wet road, like long strips of paper tearing, one after another. The only unexpected touch was a wire birdcage in one corner, but where you would have expected a parrot or a cockatoo inside there was a fat blue-black bird instead. That's how un-charming this store was: it had a crow in a cage.
Quentin didn't care. It was a bookstore, and he felt at home in bookstores, and he hadn't had that feeling much lately. he was going to enjoy it. He pushed his way back through the racks of greeting cards and cat calendars, back to where the actual books were, his glasses steaming up and his coat dripping on the thin carpet. It didn't matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.
The store should have been empty, coming up on nine o'clock on a cold rainy Thursday night, but instead it was full of people. They browsed the shelves silently, each one on his or her own, slowly wandering the aisles like sleepwalkers. a jewel-faced girl with a pixie cut was reading Dante in Italian. a tall boy with large curious eyes who couldn't have been older than sixteen was absorbed in a tom Stoppard play. a middle-aged black man with elfin cheekbones stood staring at the biographies through thick, iridescent glasses. You would almost have thought they'd come there to buy books. But Quentin knew better.
He wondered if it would be obvious, if he would know right away, or if there would be a trick to it. If they'd make him guess. he was getting to be a pretty old dog—he'd be thirty this year—but this particular game was new to him. At least it was warm inside. He took off his glasses and wiped them with a cloth. he'd just gotten them a couple of months ago, the price of a lifetime of reading fine print, and they were still an unfamiliar presence on his face: a windshield between him and the world, always slip- ping down his nose and getting smudged when he pushed them up again. When he put them back on he noticed a sharp-featured young woman, girl-next-door pretty, if you happened to live next door to a grad student in astrophysics. She was standing in a corner paging through a big, expensive architectural-looking volume. Piranesi drawings: vast shadowy vaults and cellars and prisons, haunted by great wooden engines.
Quentin knew her. Her name was plum. She felt him watching her and looked up, raising her eyebrows in mild surprise, as if to say you're kidding—you're in on this thing too?
He shook his head once, very slightly, and looked away, keeping his face carefully blank. Not to say no, I'm not in on this, I just come here for the novelty coffee mugs and their trenchant commentary on...