The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell (TLM #1)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Summary: 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.
My Thoughts: The Last Magician mixes fantasy with historical fiction as we follow Esta and her mission to travel back to 1902 to find an ancient book protected by the Order! With the book she will be able to save Mageus, such as herself, in the present and hopefully, future! Maxwell’s novel has elements of fantasy, mystery and adventure to keep you turning the page!
After reading the synopsis, hearing great buzz, and reading such positive reviews, I went into The Last Magician expecting to really enjoy it, sadly that wasn’t the case and I found myself quite disappointed.
While this book wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, there were definitely elements I really enjoyed and the plot itself has me intrigued to read the sequel and see what happens next!
Overall my biggest issue was the writing-style. It felt very flat to me and did more “telling” rather than showing. Because of that, it gave too much of the characters upfront and never really left room for interpretation. With the writing, so much of the characters motivations and personalities were stated so obviously and the writing itself was very direct, so I never really felt connected to any of the characters.
While it was great to also see the story from differing perspectives through the 3rd person POV, the pacing did become extremely slow and because of the writing style, the characters and elements of the story felt very flat to me. I had to put down the book a number of times within the couple weeks I read it, because the pacing and writing never really clicked.
While I found the characters a little difficult to connect to, Maxwell did make the story very character driven which I liked!
There was definitely a fantastical/magical tone that came with the story, though the writing which I liked! I also really enjoyed how the writing flowed well among the multiple POV’s. Being split among 4 parts, I did find parts 1 & 4 to be the most fast paced and immersive!
Time travel is something I enjoy in stories and felt that Maxwell did a great job at easily transitioning the tone of the story from present to early 1900’s and the setting, while very surface level at times, was presented well.
The plot itself left me very invested to see how Esta would be able to find the Ars Arcana, the Book and use it to bring down the Order, an ancient + secret organization that doesn’t like magicians such as herself. The first chapter really pulled me into the story as the action started right away!
Professor Lachlan, her father-figure and guardian has trained her as a thief to find and protect artifacts used by the Order. So, he instructs her to use her ability to manipulate time to travel to 1902, find the Magician and prevent them from losing the book and ensure she can bring the book back to her time.
Once in the past, we learn more about characters such as Harte Darrigan who wants to find the book as well, but to be able to escape New York and start a new life. There’s also a gang introduced called The Devil’s Own, led by Dolph Saunders who’s crew is made up of Mageus and he’s looking for the book as well.
Esta spends a majority of the book with The Devil’s Own and I couldn’t help but compare the group to the crew in Six Of Crows! While they do have their differences, to be honest there were so many similarities that I picked up on between the characters. I never really found a connection to them, because they felt too much like characters I’d read before.
The magic system in this book was introduced very well and I found the idea of the Brink to be the most interesting aspect. The magical barrier that kept magicians trapped in New York was explored through the multiple POV’s in different ways and I really enjoyed that. But it would have been great to get more background on the magic because many aspects were very surface level.
As Esta becomes more involved with the characters in that time period, she learns more about the Order and how they work in early 1900’s New York and just how much is at stake if she doesn’t find the Book.
Overall this book had a lot of well thought out elements, I just personally found that the execution of the story sadly didn’t really work for me.
The ending did have twists and turns I didn’t expect, but it did feel a little too rushed when all the pieces finally came together. However, I was left very interested to see where the plot would be headed in the sequel!
The Last Magician is an enjoyable historical + urban fantasy novel to check out! While the pacing can be slow at points and the writing a little flat, the story itself has a lot of good elements for an immersive and character-driven tale!