The final act is fast approaching, and five keys have been found. They’ve lost Penny, but gained Josh, while Julia has a mission of her own. Will the Magicians be able to make a deal to further their Quest?
Get ready to tuck and roll, bitches, ‘cause this boat don’t do complete stops.
Quentin and Alice argue- he still doesn’t trust her because she has been secretive and reckless, and she lashes out at Quentin for being selfish and oblivious to her pain and fear. She takes the book and Quentin, for the time being, seems tired of trying to keep it from her. The book leads them to the 6th key in Whitespire, the castle in Fillory which is unfortunately no longer ruled by Eliot and Margo.
Alice and Quentin, who didn’t forget Josh this time, hitch a ride with the deposed monarchs on their flying ship and get dropped off at the castle, which is currently unoccupied because Fillory is at war with both Loria and the Floaters. The arguments continue until Quentin asks Alice directly if she’s working for the Library, where he unexpectedly ran into her, and to everyone’s surprise she immediately admits she is. Contrary to Quentin’s assumptions Alice says the Library wants magic back as much as the questers do, and tasked her with helping them. Quentin can’t believe this after what the Library did to Harriet, Victoria and Penny, and Josh asks what happened to Victoria, his ex-girlfriend.
Alice breaks a mirror to shine moonlight in three different directions, which should have satisfied the conditions they gleaned from the quest book, but nothing happens. Josh, distraught at the news of Victoria’s death, and on edge from Alice and Quentin’s constant arguing, goes and finds some “party treats” he had stashed around the castle from his time filling in for Elliot. The magical drugs once allowed him to see Margo when she was trapped in the faerie realm, and now show him something that promises to help them progress to the next step of the quest.
The formerly-royal duo, flying about on the Muntjac, seem to be a bit out of touch with the goings on in their kingdom. Alice, Quentin, and Josh hitch a ride and bring them news that Tick, the current self-appointed king of Fillory, is north at the border to Loria. With magic gone from the realm, Fillory’s neighbors smell blood in the water and are poised to conquer the now-defenseless country. Eliot immediately thinks to send word to his fiance, Idri, king of Loria (Kings here can have both a husband and a wife) while Margo tries to do some damage control on the Floating Island front by messaging her mother in law, the Stone Queen. Both of them respond to the summons, but they quickly realize that putting the two of them in the same room is a bad idea. The Stone Queen knows that Margo hasn’t consummated her marriage with her creepy teen son, and Idri withdraws from his engagement to Eliot now that Eliot isn’t a king. They both see more gain in conquering Fillory than marrying the Children of Earth, and the opportunistic Stone Queen sees an opening to marry her son off to Idri.
Eliot and Margo take an aside to come up with a plan to stop a dual invasion, and the best they can come up with is to give magic to their enemies. It was Margo’s idea, but it seems her definition of giving the Floaters magic is to threaten them with it. Eliot takes a more nuanced approach with Idri, informing him that Margo is threatening the Floaters, but he would be willing to seek out and train magically adept Lorians. It seems the potential invaders are swayed by Eliot’s carrot and Margo’s stick, and the invasions will be postponed a little while longer while the quest continues.
Todd has been teaching Fen how to text with emoji, which she uses to communicate with Julia how she feels about helping faeries: A crab with a knife. Julia understands Fen’s pain, and the involuntary revulsion towards those that caused it, but is herself still very hung up on slavery being bad. She convinces Fen that these faeries need their help, and Julia finds a way to use Fen’s distaste for faerie kind as an asset.
The pair confront Irene McAllistair about her faeries, and tell her they know where to find more. Fen tells Irene she hates Faeries, and is stuck in an unfair deal made on her behalf, which is true. They ask her for one of the collars that control the slaves, preventing them from using magic, which Irene will be happy to supply in exchange for a faerie. Julia meets with Irene’s uncle Edwin, who supplies the collars to the family. He tells her that once it is locked in place, the faerie is bound, and only he can remove the collar using a special machine.
Skye, the faerie whose leg was amputated, couldn’t convince her people that they can do magic or have any chance at freedom. They have been born into servitude and fear the magicians, so Fen comes up with an idea: Find someone scarier than Irene McAllistair: The Faerie Queen. The Queen doesn’t trust them. As far as she’s concerned, Faerie-kind left earth centuries ago, and this must be some kind of trick. Fen convinces her the same way she convinced Irene, by telling her how much she hates Faeries, but their predicament is dire and beyond her ability to tolerate or remedy. For Fen to come to the creature who stole her toes and killed her child, this must be important.
Julia explains the plan to the Queen- put on the collar so she can enter the McAllistair home and talk to her own people, convince them that Faeries did survive outside of Earth and that they can be free. The Queen reluctantly agrees after learning that Julia has magic of her own and probably isn’t trying to capture her own faerie slave. Julia delivers the Queen to the McAllistairs, who is sent to the cells where her people are kept, while Julia and Fen snoop around. Fen goes in search of the machine that removes the collar, while Julia uses a spell to eavesdrop on the McAllistair family dinner.
Irene receives a call from someone placing an order for faerie dust, in greater volume than she was expecting. Since they have a limited amount of faeries, her uncle was against accepting the order, but emboldened by the new source promised by Julia and Fen, she proceeds. Fen, looking for the device that removes the collars, hears someone coming and hides. She witnesses Edwin and his servant, Dust, lead another faerie into a chair and affix a clamp around his neck. Dust assures the other faerie that he will feel a pinch, but everything will be alright just before Edwin triggers the mechanism that lops off the faeries head. Horrified, Fen accosts Dust after Edwin leaves, and drags him to the cells at knifepoint to make him explain in front of his people and his Queen what has happened.
Dust was captured over 400 years ago. He and some others stayed behind to give his people a chance to escape. After decades or centuries as a slave, he gave up hope that his Queen survived and turned against what was left of those that stayed behind. The collars are his doing, a faerie deal that cannot be broken... or can it? The Queen opens up to Dust, telling him that his Queen, the one whose escape he made possible, was her own mother.
Julia confronts the Faerie Queen, telling her that if there is a way to break the deal she should do it to save herself and her people. The Queen explains that their word is the only thing that keeps Faerie-kind safe, that if a deal is broken, they would lose their bargaining power with other races. It is better that the few here, including herself, die. Edwin comes and commands Dust to bring another Faerie to the beheading chair; Julia and Fen try to stop him, for about half a second before he slams them into a wall with battle magic. Dust, overwhelmed from recent events, doesn’t comply with Edwin’s command, so he goes into the cell and grabs Skye himself. The Queen, unable to bear Skye’s distress and impending murder, does the unthinkable- she writes a sigil on the wall in her own blood and presses her palm against it, breaking the deal, and all the faeries disappear from sight. Julia, still holding the Truth Key, can see what Edwin can not: a pack of angry and unbound faeries, who then proceed to slaughter Edwin.
The Faeries make their way upstairs to the McAllistair family reunion and kill Irene’s entire family at dinner, but she manages to hide under the table and then run away. Because the invisible faeries didn’t see the one human at the table full of humans they were murdering. Okay.
Julia promises the Faerie Queen she won’t ever tell what happened here, but the Queen says it is too late. Breaking a deal has consequences. In appreciation of Julia, the only human who has ever sought her out without wanting something from her, the Faerie Queen tells her this: She knows about the quest for the seven keys. The faeries have one of the keys, and it is what created and sustains the Faerie Realm, which in turn keeps Faerie kind safe from predators like human magicians. She will not give that up, especially now that her own choices have weakened Faerie standing.
The very definition of “flight risk,” Penny is shackled to a library cart in the Underworld, half-heartedly putting books away, and probably not in the right place. His supervisor, Howard, tries to reach out to Penny, inviting him to join their book club and try one of Kathy’s cupcakes. Penny isn’t in the mood for Underworld pleasantries and pushes Howard away.
Penny confronts Sylvia for trapping him in the Underworld when he was so close to returning to Earth. He would have still been a disembodied spirit, but he wouldn’t be stuck in a billion year contract, and could still lend support to the quest, in some way. Sylvia tries to explain, her family were all killed when magic went away and they moved on. The Underworld is a waystation for what comes next. Sylvia’s billion year contract means she won’t get to see them. Collecting the bounty on Penny shaved a million years off her service. Penny isn’t too impressed with this reasoning, but he’s still sore about being shackled to a cart.
He sees a woman come out of a room marked “Secrets Taken to Grave,” crying hysterically. She falls to the floor, unable to stand in her emotional state. Penny asks Sylvia what happens in that room, and she tells him it is a place where people are sent to unburden themselves before getting a metrocard that grants you to the next place. Contracted librarians aren’t allowed in there, but Penny has a plan. He waits for someone to come out of the room and subtly convinces him that the next place is hell, so the distraught man freaks out and leaves his card behind. Penny has his ticket out of his billion year contract, though it isn’t a return to the world of the living. Metrocard in hand, and quite pleased with himself, Penny is confronted by a sharp dressed man.
Penny is seated across from the man, who wonders why Penny seems to be struggling against his destiny while throwing himself towards it- narrowly avoiding death and then sneaking into the Underworld anyway. He introduces himself as Hades,which makes a lot of sense since this is the Underworld. Hades confiscates the metrocard, but leaves it on the table while they speak. He knows about Penny’s quest, but is unconcerned- not, as Penny surmises, because he is a god and these things are beneath him, but because within a millennia or two magic would come back anyway: Gods use magic to keep mortals in line. A few thousand years is nothing to a god like Hades, but he tries to convince Penny that it is nothing to him now, too. He has a billion years to explore the universe’s greatest library, and a destiny of his own, once he embraces it.
Penny returns to Sylvia and gives her the stolen Metrocard before joining Howard’s book club and trying one of Kathy’s amazing cupcakes, looking content for the first time.
- I’m willing to believe Alice thinks the Library wants her to help the quest succeed, but there has to be something up the Head Librarian’s sleeve. On one hand, she’s a hard user of faerie dust, making her a bad guy, but maybe she wants magic back so she doesn’t have to resort to that, plus the magical automation of Cassandra’s life-books has stopped, so the Library is neutered without Well Magic.
- Faerie dust may be detestable, but the Librarian may feel it is a necessary evil to keep the Library running.
- That being said, when did they task Alice with this mission? I guess Alice did stay behind when Quentin, Kady, Harriet and Victoria were running for their lives.
- How long has it been since they got Josh out of the dream prison? Nobody mentioned his ex died? Didn’t they learn anything about communication last week?
- I did enjoy Josh’s enthusiasm for being involved in the quest and being on a flying boat, and it was also fun to watch him slowly learn that questing isn’t that fun when you get stuck with Alice and Quentin.
- It was pretty obvious after the fact, but I had not considered that the collars were powered by a faerie deal. I figured the magicians used the faerie dust magic to make them. Dust is kind of a dick, or at the very least, the dumbest faerie ever.
- How have the faeries in the McAllisatir household gone this long without knowing they were being exploited? Skye thought they were being protected from evil magicians, but the McAllistairs made almost no attempt to hide their evil.
- The Faerie Queen has a pretty strong claim to that key and no reason to give it up. She has already endangered her people by breaking the deal, returning magic to mortals and dissolving their sanctuary would lead to their extinction.
- I think a new deal is going to be struck. While the Faerie deals are based on a trust that is now broken, I think Quentin or Julia will make a new deal, acting as good faith ambassadors for the faeries.
- Speaking of broken deals... The Faerie Queen said the damage was done. I wonder if breaking one deal means all deals are off. Fen was unconscious when the Faeries went invisible to Edwin and the viewer, so we don’t know if she would have seen them, and that’s the only way we would know in that room. Julia could see because she still has the truth key. I suspect all deals are off, and Fillory is going to be in chaos.
- When Fen was telling Irene how much she hated Faeries and their mushrooms, Irene had no idea what she was talking about. The faeries in the McAllistair household are young- where do they come from? They aren’t from Dust’s generation, and they didn’t enslave thousands of them to grind up over the last four centuries, they must be replenishing their supply. Do faeries have other ways of procreating besides mushrooms? That seems unlikely.
- Why do magicians need faerie dust anyway? Oh, I think I got it... The Library are the only ones who know magic will end, because they know about the great blank spot. They were on the phone with Irene ordering more Faerie dust.
- I love when fen says the mushrooms make everything damp and “smell like a bear’s undercarriage.”
- I really like where Penny’s story is going, but I’m a sucker for a well-mannered Hades.
- I knew he’d come around soon enough- everyone else in the Underworld seems pretty content, including Sylvia and Howard, who Penny more or less killed. If they can be cool with him, it was likely he’d chill out eventually.
- That being said, while the events of the world of the living won’t matter in a few thousand years when magic comes back anyway, it matters now. It’s possible Penny’s role in the story is just done- he is dead after all- but I have a feeling Kady won’t let him rest in peace and will come ruin his fun.
- Hades says Penny has an amazing destiny ahead of him if he can let go of his past,as well as dropping the loner act and becoming a part of something. He got them the key from the Underworld, I think he should move on, for his own good. I’m not especially concerned with Kady’s feelings on the matter.
- Howard’s book club is reading Gil and Stacy, about a tough loner in love with a driven woman. Yeah, Kady’s going to drag Penny back in.
- There’s a sign at the library that says “WALKING FEET AT ALL TIMES.” What the hell does that mean? I like the details around the Library, like the “battle magic” book section, and “unforgivable crimes.”
- The Underworld is a waystation to the afterlife. Sylvia’s family were, presumably, such terrible people that they were slaughtered en masse as soon as magic went away, and when they got to the underworld, they bribed their way to the next place, leaving Sylvia behind without a second thought. Does she really want to catch up to where those people are going?
- I say this a lot, but dammit, Margo better destroy someone once magic comes back. I predicted faeries would end up sympathetic before Margo regained the power to destroy them, but Loria and the Floaters have got to go. I don’t care how into Idri Eliot is, that kingdom has been nothing but trouble since they showed up. Double for the floaters.
- Margo clearly said “offer them magic,” I really didn’t think she meant the pointy end, but thank god she didn’t offer magic to the Stone Queen. That would have been unacceptable.
- I hope Quentin and Margo overrule Eliot on the whole giving magic to Lorians thing. It’s great that Eliot and Margo are adapting their ruling style, but you don’t arm your enemies, especially not ones like Idri, who will sleep with you and say they care for you, then invade your kingdom anyway.