You know how sometimes you pick up a book, read the synopsis, and have no idea what the plot of the book is supposed to be? Yeah, I did that before I read The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell. Either the advertised synopsis was so full of information it went way over my head or I just read it wrong, but at first, I wasn’t sure about The Last Magician. I received it in the July LitJoy Crate and decided to read it because it was there. But oh man! I am so glad I did read it. Because even though the advertised synopsis was confusing, this book was not. It was excellent.
A talented thief with the ability to manipulate time, Esta is tasked with traveling to 1902 to steal an ancient book from the sinister Order, an organization that created the Brink. The Brink is a barrier of dark energy that traps all magic-users in Manhattan, permanently. If she can steal the book, she can save the future. But to do so, she has to survive the past and the people who live there.
The Last Magician is incredible, and I don’t say this lightly. Where do I even begin? The time period, the characters, the plot, the magic—all of it was so well done that despite being 512 pages, I zipped right through this story. I stayed up late one night in order to finish reading it, and after I finished, I couldn’t fall asleep because I continued thinking about how the plot all fit together and how the characters totally ruined my life. It was that good.
First and foremost, the magic system and the conflict surrounding the magic users was amazing. It all fit together and made sense and was unique and different. Some of the magic affinities were awesome. It’s like all the best parts of the X-Men abilities mixed with the magical aura of Fantastic Beasts. Obviously, enchanting. (Stand aside Harry Potter, because this is the kind of magic I want in a story.)
Second, the setting details were to die for. (Probably literally, if you’re a magic user in Manhattan trying to escape.) New York City in 1902 with gangs and pubs and mob bosses and backroom deals and thieves and just all of it. I need more stories like this because I love the details so much.
Third, the characters. There were a lot of characters in this book, a lot of names and abilities and personalities. But they were all fantastic. Even the villains were intriguing. Sometimes there are books with multiple points of view where I just want to read through certain viewpoints to get back to the one I like the most, but for this book, I was interested in all the view points because I needed to know what was going to happen!
Plus, the characters were diverse and well-developed. There were a lot of beautiful relationships within this book, whether it was romantic or familial or just friendship relationships. And I appreciate all of them. But Esta and Harte nearly killed me every time they interacted because there was so much tension everywhere. (Gosh darn it, just kiss already!)
Of course, the plot was wonderful and there were so many plot twists flying at me I felt like I was dodging bullets in a gang fight or something.
(I have no idea. Ignore me.) I mean, the plot was just wonderful with all the thievery and magic tricks (*ahem* science tricks) and girls who like to stab people and boys who are actually big cinnamon rolls and creepy cults and everything. If I wasn’t dead from all the romantic tension between Esta and Hart, I was definitely dead because of the plot twists. (I would go on, but I don’t want to spoil anything.)
The story is marketed as a YA novel, but there wasn’t anything specifically “YA” about it. I think Esta is under 18, maybe? But it could have honestly been about people who were 25 or 30 and it would have just been as good and impactful. Honestly, it probably would have worked great for the “New Adult” genre, or whatever. So even if you’re not a YA person (or if you are a YA person), I think you could enjoy it.
I haven’t heard a lot about The Last Magician, which is a shame because I love it so much. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It had so many things I love wrapped up into one it’s almost like I wished really hard or something. It was intense and beautiful and heartbreaking, but it was also a lot of fun! I just… I need more. Please! So you should read it, obviously.