Genre: YA fantasy Published: Simon Pulse, released july 2017 My Rating: 4 stars
What would happen if Six of Crows and Passenger had a lovechild?
It would probably look and feel a lot like The Last Magician…
The best part of that analogy is that is does not only match the themes and feel, but also my eventual rating and enjoyment: Six of Crows is an easy five star, and an all time favorite of mine. Passenger was a two star, and had in my opinion quite some issues. The Last Magician lands somewhere in between, having a little of both.
Had I first stumbled upon this book, knowing nothing about it, I’m sure it would have been a pretty easy sell. The cover is stunning and I won’t lie: thief/rogue stories are somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine. So, let’s address the elephant in the room, the reason why I didn’t run for the bookstore upon release date: the author. I try not to judge authors based on a single book, but my experience with Maxwells previous book Unhooked was so bad that it left quite a sour taste in my mouth. It was one of only 2 books I DNF-ed in 2016. This left me apprehensive and putting off this book for a long time. Nonetheless, everybody deserves a second chance, and I can say that Miss Maxwell redeemed herself with this one.
The Last Magician is an exciting, action packed heist-novel with elements of magic and time travel, involving an interesting cast of characters. Similarly to Six of Crows, it was this cast of characters that carried the story. Each member of the crew has a distinct personality and a unique (magical) skill set. Our main character Esta is a smart, strong woman, without falling into the obvious clichés of being a strong female character. She often does what suits her well, not interested in being a hero, but just doing her job. She does however, care much for her crew, which puts her in some tight situations.
The side characters are all very unique, and I liked most of them. Yes, some of them fall into cliché territory, but it’s honestly hard to avoid that with a large cast of (YA) fantasy characters these days.
As far as plot and pacing goes: The Last Magician absolutely hits the ground running: before page 20 the characters are heisting and adventuring away, running around an being held at gunpoint. Despite this start, I hesitate to call the novel in its entirety “fast paced”. In fact, at times it dragged quite a bit.
It’s actually quite paradoxical; there is action on almost every page, yet nothing of real importance happens for a long time. Many of the actionscenes seemed not to move the plot forwards too much, yet serve as little adventures of their own. Those scenes are great to set up characters, mainly in the first act of the story, and I didn’t mind them there. Later on however, I think they should have been edited down, to make room for the main plot to develop further.
This would be my biggest critique of The Last Magician, and it’s more of an editing critique than a writing one. It is also where we get into “Passenger-territory”. This book did not need to be 500 pages long. In all honesty, I think it could have easily dropped 200 of those, without losing too much. It reminds me of Passenger, in the sense that this feels like a “forced-duology”. I obviously haven’t read the sequel yet, but if it’s similar in style and set up to The Last Magician, than it could have easily been edited down and released in a single standalone novel. I think I would have personally enjoyed that novel more than I did this one.
Lastly, I have to say that despite this being better than Unhooked, I am still not a fan of Lisa Maxwells writingstyle. The majority of times it is okay, but it has some serious cringe-inducing paragraphs (mostly regarding descriptions of male characters bodies), that are honestly enough to make me drop a star from my personal enjoyment-rating. That being said: I think The Last Magician is a book that many YA-readers will adore. There is a lot here to love: adventure, thieving, time-travel, a cool cast of characters and a hint of romance. If you like Passenger, Six of Crows, or even A Darker Shade of Magic, this might be one you will enjoy as well.
Find this book on Goodreads