The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Published by Simon Pulse on July 18th, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
“They were sitting on opposite sides of the board, playing each other in hopes of gaining the same prize.”
I’ve owned this book for over a year now and I finally decided to read it after some of my favourite Booktubers started raving about it. It’s one of those YA fantasy series that somehow managed to slip under the radar. But I’m so happy I finally picked this up! It was gathering dust on my shelves for too long.
The Last Magician follows Esta who is a Mageus — one of the remaining few in modern-day New York who has an affinity for magic — and a talented thief. She’s grown up stealing magical artifacts from the Order. With her ability to manipulate time, Esta must travel back to 1902 for the ultimate heist: to steal an ancient book containing secrets of the nefarious and evil Order who has created The Brink, a magical barrier that has trapped all Mageus in Manhattan. And she has to do it before the Magician gets to the book and destroys it.
This book has the holy trinity of plots devices: magic, time travel, and heists.
It also has incredibly well-written characters. Even though several main characters are heavily involved in the plot, I can vividly remember everyone’s character traits and flaws. Nobody was portrayed as flat and boring.
Along with the interesting characters, I also loved the plot. It was fast-paced, compelling, and kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire time. And it’s not easy to write about time travel. I think we can all point to at least one book, movie, or TV show that did it really badly. It’s usually way too complicated and doesn’t make any sense in the end. But it wasn’t like that at all with The Last Magician. It didn’t feel randomly placed or written just to make things interesting. It served a point in the story and did it fantastically.
One thing I always look out for when there’s a magic system introduced is whether or not it’s explained well. Nothing irks me quite like getting to the end of a book and not realizing how people used magic or how it came to be. *cough* Romanov *cough*
Another aspect I really appreciated about the book was Maxwell does a great job at exploring feminism or lack thereof during the 1900s. When Esta travels back in time to that period, she realizes there are so many things she can’t accomplish compared to her life in the modern world. I didn’t expect that to be a huge part of the book, but it was addressed with nuance.
As someone who loves to read thrillers and mysteries, I was pleasantly surprised by several twists in this book. I thought I knew where the plot was going and then Maxwell came through with a jaw-dropping twist. Throughout the book, I was leaning toward a 4 bubble tea rating. But the last 100 pages, Oh. My. God. I already thought the action was picking up, but then it somehow managed to ramp up even more.
And that ending? I won’t spoil anything, but I love how it wrapped up the story, but also left us wanting more with a great set up for a sequel.
This was a fun and fast-paced urban fantasy that definitely deserves more recognition. I don’t know how this book managed to fly under the radar for so long. Since it did end with some questions unanswered, I feel compelled to pick up the sequel. But I haven’t heard as many good things about the second book. So we’ll see!
I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who loved the Six of Crows duology! Or, you know, if you love heists. Because who doesn’t love heists?! Come on! They’re the best especially when you get to know everyone who’s going to be on the crew.