- my rating: 5 stars
- published by:Simon Pulse
- genres: historical-fiction, fantasy
- content warnings: attempted rape scene, death & murder, gang violence & themes, racism and sexism, death
- read if you’re a fan of: historical fantasies, The Diviners by Libba Bray, stories with heists/thieves, enemies to lovers romance
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.
“Find the Magician,” he told her.
“And stop him before he destroys our future.”
The Last Magician is the kind of hidden gem I just love finding. It is one of those books that just has so many of the really specific, really little things I love in books but can’t always find. Some of these little things include – enemies to lovers romance, time travel, historical fantasies set in alternate pasts, secret societies, infiltrating said secret societies, and magic tricks! I can’t believe how much this book appealed to me on so many levels, and it reminded me of The Diviners, one of my favourite series, which made my heart feel so full.
The Last Magician follows Esta, a thief and magician from modern-day New York with an affinity for time. In her New York, magic has been all but wiped out, due to the growing power and influence of the group called The Order, that suppresses magic and magicians. When Esta’s mentor/adoptive father discovers that The Order can be stopped in 1902 before they come into power, by retrieving an ancient book holding the secrets of magic destroyed by a magician in the time, Esta uses her affinity to go back in time and steal the book from the magician. Doing so will allow her to stop The Order and destroy the Brink, a dark energy barrier around the island of Manhattan, trapping the magicians inside. But to find the book Esta will have to infiltrate a gang, locate the magician, steal the book, and get back to her own time without getting caught up in the past.
“Regret was for people who dragged their past along with them everywhere”
I really loved what Lisa Maxwell did with this book. She dropped us into a world and just let the tension slowly build. I really enjoyed how we follow Esta in 1902 and don’t know anything that is going on, just like her. The way Maxwell weaves together the worldbuilding, the characters and the plot was GREAT. I saw some people say this was boring and had nothing happening but I disagree – Maxwell doesn’t need Things to be happening exactly because there is so much happening with the world and the characters, and the tension and plot movement all comes from how everyone is interacting with this world which is – literally trying to kill them. But that aside, I thought this did have excellent plot elements – gangs, heists, secret societies, weapons of mass destruction. I really enjoyed it from beginning to end. ESPECIALLY, the end.
I just loved the whole world of this book. The set up of New York and the way magic existed in this world was so interesting. I loved the set up of all the magicians being trapped in Manhattan, and how that was affecting the dynamics between the different magic users. The different gangs, and groups, and the exploration of their cultures was also great. I really, really love books that explore how culture develops in groups isolated from the rest of society, and in survival circumstances. I also thought Maxwell did a good job at creating a range of characters who exist in the same conditions but react to and interact with the world so differently. Plus, the 1900s setting was great because I love historical fiction and just like, having fun running amok in history. I also liked the concept of one of the people ‘on your side’, doing something that screws everyone else. The ‘villain’ being someone who had good intentions at the time is a really interesting concept and I haven’t really seen it used in the same way as it was in this book.
“his life might have been built on illusions, but his death would be his greatest trick. ”
I loved the characters in this too! All of them were well written and complex. Most had more of a dark side than anything but their stories and motivations were compelling. Again, I liked that Maxwell slowly revealed their character depths and backstories. Everyone in this is basically a little bit morally skewed due to their situation and I thought Maxwell really drew that out for the reader in an interesting way. Even though some of the character arcs and developments were predictable, it didn’t really matter because I felt Maxwell drew out the tension and payoff in such a way it was ultimately satisfying even if you ‘guessed’ where it was going.
The romance was also DELICIOUS. A True enemies to lovers where the characters are kind of still more enemies even when they’re together? It is EXCELLENT tension, and again, because the characters are so flawed, it is a relationship with just a Little bit of a dark edge I enjoy (and that makes sense!). Anyway, if you enjoy romances with a lot of banter and a lot of tropes like “oh, we’re forced to live/work together but hate eachother” and “I’m not jealous……..” and “I hate you but let’s make out” then this is gonna really butter your croissant.
“They were sitting on opposite sides of the board, playing each other in hopes of gaining the same prize.”
I am so glad I decided to take a chance on this, as it’s become one of my favourites! I haven’t seen many people discuss this book, which is a shame since it’s got SO many similarities to The Diviners but not nearly as many fans.
I really loved this book, it drew me in and then just kept the tension and the reveals coming. Maxwell doesn’t hand you everything, but I liked her ability to slowly unspool the story and keep me guessing. I was engaged right until the very end, and this managed to excite me in a way I haven’t been excited about a new series in a while, so hooray !
until next time!