on July 18, 2017
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Romance, Fantasy & Magic
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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.
Fall into a world ruled by the Ortus Aurea, where people born with natural magic are scorned and fear the Brink, a wall that sucks up all their magic, resulting in even death. The Last Magician brings readers to the twentieth century as the main character Esta travels back in time to make sure that a mythical Book is stolen, allowing the Mageus, people with natural-born magic, to live in peace. By all accounts, this would have been a book that I enjoyed immensely. While memorable, there are some aspects that dimmed my enjoyment from time to time. I think the overall impression I have of this one is that it’s exceedingly fun and will keep readers on their toes, but the duplicity went too much for me at times.
‘The Ortus Aurea doesn’t have any real magic,’ Dolph continued. ‘Everything they have, everything they can do – it’s counterfeit power. It all comes at a cost. The Brink isn’t real magic, but it’s destroying real magic just the same.’
A lot of the plot build-up felt anticlimactic at some points. The whole plot is Esta going back in time and joining a heist to steal the Book, but the majority of the book is deception and betrayal towards the other members of the party that she joins to steal the book. There’s never one major event that happens in regards to the possession of the book; much of it, like the character interactions, are scattered here and there between Esta’s actions that come out of her self-interest. Told in alternating third person omniscient views, The Last Magician focuses on Esta and the world of the gangs of New York that she joins. While she joins one, she also gets to meet new friends to perhaps trust – or eventually betray. They’re all pretty unique, each with magical abilities and different personalities, but I never really got to connect to any of the others. Esta meets the Magician, who she was tasked to stop in destroying the Book that could save the Mageus. But she soon finds out that the Magician isn’t who she thought he would be, nor were her orders as direct as she would have thought.
The descriptive setting of New York in the 1900’s was a great background to set these events. The atmosphere was actually really fun to be in, and only heightened the adventure: you had climbing socialites, dangerous gang leaders, and a lively air that is full of energy. But I don’t think even that could have stopped my exasperation on the duplicity on all – pretty much all! – the characters towards one another. I remember reading a part of the story where one of the characters was like “Oh wow, when were you going to tell me this secret?” towards Esta and that happened every other five pages because of the things she kept from this character. At some point I was just like, “Y’all! When are you ever going to work together??” Even the gang she joins has people hesitant and eyeing her with distrust. This lack of coming together as a group because of the numerous hidden agendas and betrayals going on made me underwhelmed by the whole heist in general. It happened throughout the entirety of the book, so you may see why I got tired from time to time of all the secrets going on. There are secrets you make because it’ll benefit you, and then just foolish ones you keep because of a misguided choice that you keep on doing, not learning from each mistake.
She wasn’t really his or even on his side. They were sitting on opposite sides of the board, playing each other in hopes of gaining the same prize. But he had so much more at stake, and if push came to shove, he wouldn’t let her be the victor.
I was a bit iffy on the romance for this one, although it did have its smoldering scenes. It’s ultimately hard to be caught up in a ship when each of the characters don’t trust each other, and both have hidden motives. Granted, this makes for a great deal more of angst and expectation, but I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I could have because of all the lies. Esta’s gang needs Harte onboard with the plan for stealing the Book, but Harte has his own needs for this Book – to escape the city, go past the Brink, and explore the world. Thus starts a romance with an underlying tension of ulterior motives and the sense that at the end, only one will get what they want. Or will they?
‘Who said I want you to be anything but what you are? I like your angles and your edges,’ she told him, hoping he could hear the truth in her words. ‘I have plenty of my own, you know.’
A vibrant, magical world set in twentieth century America, reminiscent of A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly, and gang politics that set characters up for loss and betrayal from people they could never see coming, much like The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, make up the adventure set in The Last Magician. Secrets reign, and all characters have their self-interests at heart. There is not much of an exploration on magic, but the world is set pretty well for a read that is hard to put down. I didn’t enjoy the numerous duplicities going on, but they certainly benefitted the story. The ending definitely leaves readers wanting more as you can tell that Esta and Harte are just covering the cusp of their journey. I can for sure say that I’ll be picking up the sequel to find out what happens to them. (Thankfully, I saw on Twitter that the author is writing it!) Readers looking for a magical world where you cannot trust anyone you see will have a fun time with this one.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for the review copy!