REVIEW: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician Book One; Young Adult

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♦BLURB♦

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.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

A time-traveling historical with romance and the paranormal, The Last Magician is an intricately woven tale of adventure and danger. Set mostly in the early 1900s, Maxwell really set the scene of Old New York, a time of gangs and power seekers, but with the added flare of magic. One could almost see the costumes, feel the cigarette smoke clogging the air, and ache with the impossible struggle for survival in a divided city (a bit reminiscent of Gangs of New York).

With the twist of magic, Maxwell’s story takes readers deep into the struggle of the magic-having and the magic-less; the Mageus versus The Order, those without magic but feeling owed it or in eradicating it (or them) completely. Being tasked with travelling back in time to stop the Magician from stealing the book that could be the answer to saving magic and those with it for the future, her own time, Esta is wholly unprepared for the time she arrives in and all of its landmines. She’s alone, thrust in a time where nothing is remotely the same, and with characters that she has no idea how to read; her fear and lack of knowing how to complete her task without changing anything else in the future was palpable. And even with her affinity, Maxwell allowed her to feel unsure of herself and to struggle with finding who she was among a whole cast of characters (that were equally as diverse and palpable), qualities that likened her to the reader and made her visceral.

The parallel between the dividing of the people in this story mirrors greatly the division of race in the real world. With the Mageus being immigrants to New York, possessing of a quality that frightens those without it, I couldn’t help but see the direct references to our world. I have no idea if this was something the author meant to tie it to, and even if not, there are many interpretations that a reader could make with it. There was such strength, though, in risking that connection or powering into it with full intent, most especially in the easy way she wrote it. The passion Maxwell put into her characters, the issues, and the worldbuilding was beautifully done from start to finish, and it was unlike anything I had read before.

With a big story such as this, both in length and in worldbuilding, I wasn’t surprised to find it slow for some of the first half as it set the scene. Maxwell really rolled up her sleeves and dug in when making this an accurate and well-thought-out book that featured heavily in alchemy and magic. And, to me, it felt like much more than a Young Adult story in that the characters felt well beyond their years, expectant of those down-trodden times, and that it was so very detailed. The twists and turns were vast and quite frequent once the story got going, and I flew through the last half of the book in no time at all. The Last Magician was a unique and grand adventure, one that is just getting started. And I am desperate for the second half of this story.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Lisa Maxwell

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest (2014), Gathering Deep (2015), and Unhooked (Simon Pulse, Feb. 2016). She’s worked as a bookseller, editor, and teacher. She has a PhD in English, and when she’s not writing books, she’s a professor at a local college. She lives near DC, where she spends her weekends taking all sorts of adventures with her family.

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