THE LAST MAGICIAN by Lisa Maxwell: When Old NY Gangsters​ Wield Illicit Magic

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SYNOPSIS

While magic once thrived in New-York, only a few remaining Mageus now show an ability for it. Esta Filosik, like any other Mageus living in New York, is confined to the island of Manhattan by the Brink, a magical barrier erected by the Order and meant to steal the power (and often the life) of any Mageus who crosses it. 

All her life, Esta has been forced to hide her ability to manipulate time for fear of being punished by the Order. Secretly, she has also been trained to travel in the past and steal magical artifacts from under the Order’s nose until she’s ready for the most hazardous heist of all, the one that will change everything.

This time, Esta must change the future by traveling back to 1902 and stealing the Order’s most precious book before a man known as the Magician gets ahold of it and destroys every chance the Mageus have at freeing themselves from the Brink. What Esta didn’t expect, though, was to find this world brimming with magic and ruthless gangsters so alluring, and to find herself torn between securing the future of all the Mageus and staying true to those she has come to hold dear in the past. 

 

GENRES: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult


THIS BOOK IS A MASTERPIECE. 

I could end this review right here because, let’s be honest, this is pretty self-explanatory. But I will indulge in the pleasures of a rave that, hopefully, you will have just as much pleasure reading. 

First, let me tell you that The Last Magician is hugely underrated. Why doesn’t everybody talk about this book all day and dream about it all night? With its lively writing style, badass characters, and engaging plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very last page, The Last Magician qualifies as one of the most underrated YA fantasy books. 

Comparisons were drawn with Six of Crows, one of the best YA novels of 2015 according to Goodreads (and myself). By the way, if you haven’t read Six of Crows yet, what are you waiting for??? That book and its sequel are incredible—and way better than Leigh Bardugo’s previous trilogy. 

Anyways, let’s not go off track here. The Last Magician has been compared to Six of Crows, and I can see the similarities. I also got some Ace of Shades vibes (I know it came out after The Last Magician, but whatever) because of the street gangs and all those acts of treachery being performed. However, Lisa Maxwell has crafted an inventive heist story that set The Last Magician apart from other YA books featuring thieves and gangsters. And you won’t regret reading it!

 

THE CHARACTERS

  • Esta, our main character. Ohhhh, she’s a feisty one. She’s bold, clever, stubborn, and sarcastic. Her ability to manipulate time makes her the most skilled pickpocket ever, and she’s just an overall badass lead because she doesn’t give a crap about being the hero. 
  • Harte, the Magician. Flirty, mysterious and deceptive, we never know if he’s honest or scheming. He constantly puts himself in danger by performing magic tricks in front of members of the Order and calling himself a “master of the occult arts”. 
  • Dolph, the boss of the gang. He’s neither good nor bad and could be described as an older version of Kaz Brekker—Dolph is a lesser badass, though. Dolph seems coldhearted on the surface, but he values his gang and would do everything that needs to be done for its own good. 
  • Viola, the assassin. Her ability: killing without touching. She’s a tough Italian woman with a bad temper, but underneath her mask of indifference hides a loyal and loving heart. 
  • Jianhyu, the spy. His ability: bending the light to make himself invisible. He always hides in the shadows, whether it is to your advantage or not. 
  • Nibs, Dolph’s right hand. Clever and mysterious, Nibs is always one step ahead of everyone else and seems to know just everything about everyone. 
  • Tilly, the one with a heart of gold. Trusting and caring, Tilly always takes care of everyone else. 

All the characters, even the secondary ones, are fully fleshed out. They all come from different backgrounds and have their own abilities, vulnerabilities, and flaws. Even though they live in a world that is very different from my own, I was still able to understand their actions and their motives. That means the author did a great job. 

 

THE PLOT

The plot is fast-paced and action-packed, yet the world is incredibly fleshed out. How is this possible?

You can expect a lot of illicit magic, betrayals, corruption, lies, time travel, history, and thievery in a crazy race against the clock. The Last Magician combines vivid descriptions of 1902 New York, the history of the Mageus, and the characters with detailed action scenes. It’s an equilibrium of emotion, action, and world-building.

Unpredictable is also one word to describe this book. Every twist and turn got me surprised (and gasping!) and I could never have predicted the last 100 pages. At one point, it was all too much and I had to put the book down and catch my breath (no kidding)! Fainter hearts be warned. 

 

THE WRITING STYLE

Delightful! It draws you in and never lets you go. 

“Dolph Saunders was born for the night. The quiet hours when the city went dark and the streets emptied of the daylight rabble were his favorite time. Though they might have been criminals and cutthroats, those out after the lamps were lit were his people—the dispossessed and disavowed who lived in the shadows …”

Without being too lyrical or poetic, Lisa Maxwell’s writing flows. Her writing lends itself flawlessly to descriptions, action scenes, and emotional turmoils. It’s beautiful, rich and tantalizing, yet it never feels forced.


“Though the day was warm, there was a chill in the air. A cold, malicious energy that whispered of danger. A reminder that ahead was the end of the world for anyone with magic.”

Words fail me to express how much I love The Last Magician. When in the mood for an enchanting urban fantasy novel, definitely give it a shot. It will leave you speechless too. 

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