Title: The Last Magician
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: July 18th 2017
In modern day New York, magic is all but obsolete. Esta is a thief, and one of the few Mageus left in the city. They are all unable to leave because of The Brink—a barrier around the city that will strip them of magic if they cross it.
All hope appears to be lost…unless Esta takes a mission presented to her by her mentor, Doc Lawson. Doc believes that if he can send Esta into the past, she will be able to rewrite history, changing the future of Mageus, and the position of magic in modern day New York.
But playing with the past is never easy, and once Esta finds herself in early twentieth-century New York, run by gangs and secret magical societies, she’s not so sure that she’ll be able to pull off the heist…or that Doc told her everything she needed to know for the task.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
The Last Magician opens in the year 1902 and we watch as a young Magician leaps to his death, desperate to keep a powerful book out of the wrong hands. We jump to 1926 where Esta steals a magical artefact from the safe of a very powerful and influential Order. Then we travel with Esta back to modern day New York, her natural time. Confused? I was when I first started reading this book but it didn’t take me long to jump into the story and find my feet.
Most of The Last Magician is set in 1902. In order to change her world for the better and free the Mageus trapped in New York Esta jumps back to 1902 in order to insert herself in the middle of a dangerous heist to steal the Ars Arcana. The book – more of a legend to some people than not – was lost when the Magician betrayed his people and fled with it, never to be seen again. Esta’s job is to stop the Magician, steal the book and bring it back to modern day New York.
However her mission isn’t that simple, something she quickly discovers when she steps foot in 1902. Magic is hunted by the Order, and Esta quickly finds herself on the wrong side of them. She is forced to prove her worth before Dolph Saunders and gain protection from his gang in order to stay alive. Everyone in New York wants the Ars Arcana, and everyone is willing to play dirty to get it for their own means. As Esta gains Dolph’s trust and tries to get closer to the Magician, ready to double cross him when the time is right, members of the Order are playing with forces which could change the future, Esta’s present, in very dangerous ways.
The Last Magician is a slow book; building up the characters, the world, the situation and the back story. There was a lot that needed to be expanded on so we could fully understand what Esta, Dolph and Harte were trying to achieve, but it made for a thrilling story. The stakes were even higher, and as the story unfolded and we saw glimpses of different characters motivations and back stories it was hard to know who was really on whose side, and who could be trusted.
Esta has an affinity which allows her to manipulate time. Her whole life Esta has been trained by Professor Lachlan for the sole purpose of going back and retrieving the Ars Arcana. She knows how to pick any lock, how to slip by any mark, but her abilities as a thief have been honed without her affinity. She doesn’t need to rely on her gift to walk away unseen, though it’s there to help when she needs it.
It’s very obvious Esta is from modern day New York when she chafes at her place in 1902 as a woman. She is constantly turning the tables on Harte which makes a few of their interactions hilarious as the two go toe to toe. Esta can be reckless and stubborn, and doesn’t seem to recognize at times when someone else has a better plan, but she is loyal to the Professor and determined to succeed and get back home where her friends and family are waiting for her.
Harte has finally succeeded in escaping from the gang he pledged his loyalty to when Dolph comes calling. Harte is determined not to get involved in Dolph’s plan, but when he discovers what Dolph is after Harte plans to go after the book himself, believing it can give him what he’s always wanted; a way through the Brink and out of New York. Harte is a character very much out for himself, he’s already traded his loyalty away once to one of the gangs and is determined to never let anyone have that kind of power over him again.
Each member of Dolph’s gang have their own motivations for going after the Ars Arcana, for following Dolph’s plans, and I loved getting to know each and every one of them. I’ve seen reviews where Dolph is compared to Kaz Brekker from the Six of Crows duology, and while on some levels I agree there are some big differences between the two characters I can’t go into without revealing major spoilers.
Dolph has an iron control over his crew; he likes to think he’s three steps ahead, but his desperation for the book means he is blind to certain things happening under his nose. Nibs was probably the most interesting character for me to read about; Dolph’s right hand man he seems more level headed and reliable, almost the power and stability behind Dolph’s throne. Viola and Jainyu have both came to Dolph from other gangs, and both have dark pasts they are determined not to return to.
There are plenty of characters that make up this story, each of them have their own motivations and desires and dark secrets driving them forwards. Like I said earlier in this review every chapter you read reveals something new about a character, and makes it impossible to keep up with who you should be rooting for. I was on the edge of my seat as little hints and secrets where revealed, never sure who the right person to have the Ars Arcana actually was.
Magic is something that is very real in Lisa Maxwell’s story, but in Esta’s modern day New York it is all but forgotten. When she travels back to 1902, however, she finds magic to be a very real threat to the people without it. Maxwell’s New York is bordered by the Brink, a barrier around the city which lets Mageus into New York, but takes their magic and their lives if they try to leave. It makes for some desperate times and even more desperate people. With nowhere else to go the Mageus are forced to either hide their gifts, for fear of the Order finding them, or sell their affinities and loyalty to one of the gangs who run the slums. The world building in The Last Magician was heavy in places, there was a lot to cover especially considering this was a standalone novel, but it was really well written and I never felt lost or pulled out of the story.
The Last Magician wasn’t as action-filled as I would have thought but it was still an attention grabbing read simply because of the characters. They each had me hooked, I was invested in finding out more about each and every one of them, and working out who would end up on what side when the story reached its conclusion. The ending confused me a little, it was left very open and while I like imagining what could have happened next part of me is desperate for another book following on from this one.
What did you think of The Last Magician? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.