The Last Magician
By: Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 18th, 2017
Stop the Magician.
Steal the book.
Save the future.
In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.
Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.
But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
The Last Magician is a wonderfully well done and rich read. The research that went into the book is evident, the creativity almost tangible. The historically accurate past and Lisa’s new history are sewn together well and the seams are hardly noticeable. The magical history created for the novel is easily recognizable, with many parallels that can be drawn with our own reality, and not far fetched, the causes and effects of historic events in the story’s reality are plausible and far reaching, at once building the credibility of this world and enriching it beyond the scope of the narrative.
Even though the book starts by going back and forth between the present and the past, this is very much historical fiction with a dash of time travel. These two times are more connect than you would expect, but the focus of the story is set in the turn of the century version of this New York City. And I can’t complain. This is a richly rendered 1900’s New York, from the dance halls to the Bella Strega to Broadway, and is diversely cast and attentive to the social tensions of the time. Not only is the taboo-ness of a lesbian relationship touched on, but so are the tensions felt by the Asian immigrants through Jianyu’s point of view, and the disparity between gender roles. It is noted how ingrained these prejudices were, how speaking against them was beyond odd, and even those who you would think would be progressive still had them, notably Jianyu who works with women and relies on them as part of his livelihood and Harte as the love interest.
Lisa weaves a spectacular mystery of complex double crosses and personal relationships mixed with magic. The rules of the magic of this universe are clearly laid out, even if the Ortus Aurea refuses to acknowledge them, and the powers of the characters were easy to understand and explain. Enough so that you could enjoy being carried away in how these characters used their powers and the extent of them rather than trying to make sense of them. These characters are all brilliantly done, none are interchangeable or vague, and when it comes to Dolph and his crew, each gets a chance for their story to be told. Some just have more of an impact than others. As for romance? The relationship between Harte and Esta is hilarious, a game of playing off each other and double crosses and knowing that they can’t trust the other but being attracted to them anyway. I can’t wait to see more of these two in the sequel. And the villains? They come in multiple different forms. The Order is the main and obvious threat, but there are others in its shadow who are just powerful. From within the order there is the shamed Jack, JP Morgan’s nephew, who is building a devastating machine, a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Bella Strega is Kelly, the leader of a rival gang trying to use the current situation to his own gain, followed by more manipulative characters that take surprising, and not so surprising, forms.
The Last Magician is a spectacular read, highly original with twists that are utterly fantastic. And because it’s such a gloriously long book, by the time everything is in the air, you have plenty of page time to enjoy while it eloquently hits the fan in an epic finale that will leave you desperate for the sequel.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced copy was provided through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review.