The Last Magician (Last Magician Series #1)

The Last Magician (Last Magician Series #1)

by Lisa Maxwell


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An instant New York Times bestseller!

“Will keep you guessing until the last page.” —Cinda Williams Chima, New York Times bestselling author

A girl travels back in time to find a mysterious book that could save her future in Lisa Maxwell’s “splendid series opener” (Kirkus Reviews).

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481432085
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 08/07/2018
Series: Last Magician Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 114,910
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Lisa Maxwell is the author of The Last Magician, The Devil’s Thief, The Serpent’s Curse, Unhooked, Sweet Unrest, and The Gathering Deep. She grew up in Akron, Ohio, and has a PhD in English. She’s worked as a teacher, scholar, editor, writer, and bookseller (at Little Professor Book Center in Alabama). When she’s not writing books, she’s a professor at a local college. She now lives near Washington, DC, with her husband and two sons. You can follow her on Twitter @LisaMaxwellYA or learn more about her upcoming books at

Read an Excerpt

The Last Magician

December 1926—Upper West Side

It wasn’t magic that allowed Esta to slip out of the party unseen, the bright notes from the piano dimming as she left the ballroom. No matter the year, no one ever really looks at the help, so no one had noticed her leave. And no one had noticed the way her shapeless black dress sagged a bit on one side, the telltale sign of the knife she had concealed in her skirts.

But then, people usually do miss what’s right in front of them.

Even through the heavy doors, she could still faintly hear the notes from the quartet’s ragtime melody. The ghost of the too-cheery song followed her through the entry hall, where carved woodwork and polished stone towered three stories above her. The grandeur didn’t overwhelm her, though. She was barely impressed and definitely not intimidated. Instead, she moved with confidence—its own sort of magic, she supposed. People trusted confidence, even when they shouldn’t. Maybe especially when they shouldn’t.

The enormous crystal chandelier might have thrown shards of electric light around the cavernous hall, but the corners of the room and the high, coffered ceiling remained dark. Beneath the palms that stretched two stories up the walls, more shadows waited. The hall might have appeared empty, but there were too many places to hide in the mansion, too many chances someone could be watching. She kept moving.

When she came to the elaborate grand staircase, she glanced up to the landing, where an enormous pipe organ stood. On the floor above, the private areas of the house held rooms filled with art, jewels, priceless vases, and countless antiques—easy pickings with everyone distracted by the loud, drunken party in the ballroom. But Esta wasn’t there for those treasures, however tempting they might have been.

And they were definitely tempting.

She paused for a second, but then the clock chimed the hour, confirming that she was later than she’d meant to be. Tossing one more careful glance over her shoulder, she slipped past the staircase and into a hall that led deeper into the mansion.

It was quiet there. Still. The noise of the party no longer followed her, and she finally let her shoulders sag a bit, expelling a sigh as she relaxed the muscles in her back from the ramrod-straight posture of the serving girl she’d been pretending to be. Tipping her head to one side, she started to stretch her neck, but before she could feel the welcome release, someone grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the shadows.

On instinct, she twisted, holding tight to her attacker’s wrist and pulling it forward and down with all her weight, until he let out a strangled yelp, his elbow close to popping.

“Dammit, Esta, it’s me,” a familiar voice hissed. It was an octave or two higher than usual, probably because of the pressure she was still exerting on his arm.

With a whispered curse, she released Logan’s arm and shook him off, disgusted. “You should know better than to grab me like that.” Her heart was still pounding, so she couldn’t manage to dredge up any remorse for the way he was rubbing his arm. “What’s your deal, anyway?”

“You’re late,” Logan snapped, his too-handsome face close to hers.

With golden hair and the kind of blue eyes that girls who don’t know better write poems about, Logan Sullivan was a master of using his looks to his advantage. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him, but he didn’t try to charm Esta. Not anymore.

“Well, I’m here now.”

“You were supposed to be here ten minutes ago. Where have you been?” he demanded.

She didn’t have to answer him. It would have pissed him off more to keep her secrets, but she couldn’t suppress a satisfied grin as she held up the diamond stickpin she’d lifted from an old man in the ballroom who’d had trouble keeping his hands to himself.

“Seriously?” Logan glared at Esta. “You risked the job for that?”

“It was either this or punch him.” She glanced up at him to emphasize her point. “I don’t do handsy, Logan.” It hadn’t even been a decision, really, to bump into him as he moved on to grab some young maid, to pretend to clean the champagne off his coat while she slipped the pin from his silken tie. Maybe she should have walked away, but she hadn’t. She couldn’t.

Logan continued to glower at her, but Esta refused to regret her choices. Regret was for people who dragged their past along with them everywhere, and Esta had never been able to afford that kind of deadweight. Besides, who could regret a diamond? Even in the dimly lit corridor, the stone was a beauty—all fire and ice. It also looked like security to Esta, not only because of what it was worth but also for the reminder that whatever happened, she could survive. The heady rush of adrenaline from that knowledge was still jangling through her blood, and not even Logan’s irritation could dampen it.

“You do whatever the job requires.” He narrowed his eyes at her.

“Yeah, I do,” she said, her voice low and not at all intimidated. “Always have. Always will. The Professor knows that, so I’d have thought you would have figured it out by now too.” She glared at him a second longer before taking another satisfied look at the diamond, just to irritate him. Definitely closer to four carats than she’d originally thought.

“We can’t afford any unnecessary risks tonight,” he said, still all business. Still clearly believing he had some sort of authority over their situation.

She shrugged off his accusation as she pocketed the diamond. “Not so much of a risk,” she told him truthfully. “We’ll be long gone before the old goat even notices it’s missing. And you know there’s no way he saw me take it.” Her marks never did. She leveled a defiant look in his direction.

Logan opened his mouth like he was going to argue, but she beat him to it.

“Did you find it, or what?” Esta asked.

She already knew what the answer would be—of course he’d found it. Logan could find anything. It was his whole reason for being—at least it was his whole reason for being on the Professor’s team. But Esta allowed him his triumph because she needed to get him off the topic of the diamond. They didn’t have time for one of his tantrums, and much as she hated to admit it, she had been later than they’d planned.

Logan’s mouth went flat, like he was fighting the urge to continue harping about the diamond, but his ego won out—as it usually did—and he nodded. “It’s in the billiards room, like we expected.”

“Lead the way,” she said with what she hoped was a sweet enough expression. She knew the floor plan of the mansion as well as he did, but she also knew from experience that it was best to let Logan feel helpful, and maybe even a little like he was in charge. At the very least, it kept him off her ass.

He hesitated for a moment longer but finally gave a jerk of his head. She followed him silently, and more than a little smugly, through the dim hall.

All around them, the walls dripped with paintings of dour noblemen from some bankrupt European estate or another. Charles Schwab, the mansion’s owner, wasn’t any more royal than Esta herself, though. He’d come from a family of German immigrants, and everyone in town knew it. The house hadn’t helped—built on the wrong side of Central Park, it was an entire city block of overdecorated gilding and crystal. Its contents might have been worth a fortune, but in New York, even a fortune wasn’t enough to buy your way into the most exclusive circles.

Too bad it wouldn’t last long. In a handful of years, Black Friday would hit and all the art lining those walls, along with every bit of the furnishings, would be sold off to pay Schwab’s debts. The mansion itself would sit empty until a decade later, when it would be torn down to make way for another uninspired apartment building. If the place weren’t so obviously tacky, it might have been sad.

But that was still a few years off, and Esta didn’t have time to worry about the future of steel tycoons. Not when she had a job to do and less time than she’d planned.

The two turned down another hallway, which ended at a heavy wooden door. Logan listened carefully before pushing it open. For a second Esta worried he would step into the room with her.

Instead, he gave her a serious nod. “I’ll keep watch.”

Grateful that she wouldn’t have Logan breathing down her neck while she worked, she slipped into the scent of wood polish and cigars. A thoroughly masculine space, the billiards room wasn’t filled with the over-fussy gilding and crystal that adorned the rest of the house. Instead, tufted leather chairs were arranged in small seating groups and an enormous billiards table anchored the space like an altar.

The room was stuffy from the fire in the hearth, and Esta pulled at the high neckline of her dress, weighing the risks of unbuttoning the collar or rolling up her sleeves. She needed to be comfortable when she worked, and no one was there but Logan—

“Get a move on it,” he demanded. “Schwab’s going to start the auction soon, and we need to be gone by then.”

Her back still to Logan, she searched the space as she forced herself to take a deep breath so she wouldn’t kill him. “Did you figure out where the safe is?”

“Bookcase,” he said before closing the door and sealing her into the stifling room. The silence surrounding her was broken only by the steady ticking of a grandfather clock—tick . . . tick . . . tick—a reminder that each second passing was one closer to the moment they might be discovered. And if they were seen—

But she put that fear out of her mind and focused on what she had come to do. The wall opposite the massive fireplace was lined with shelves filled with matching leather volumes. Esta admired them as she ran her fingers lightly over the pristine spines.

“Where are you?” she whispered.

The titles glimmered softly in the low light, keeping their secrets as she felt along the underside of the shelves. It wasn’t long before she found what she was looking for—a small button sunk into the wood, where none of the servants would hit it accidentally and where no one but a thief would think to look. When she depressed it, a mechanism within the shelves released with a solid, satisfying click, and a quarter of the wall swung out enough for her to pull the hinged shelves forward.

Exactly as she’d expected—a Herring-Hall-Marvin combination floor safe. Three-inch-thick cast steel and large enough for a man to sit comfortably inside, it was the most sophisticated vault you could buy in 1923. She’d never seen one so new before. This particular model was gleaming in hunter-green lacquer with Schwab’s name emblazoned in an ornate script on the surface. A beautiful vault for the things a very rich man held most dear. Luckily, Esta had been able to crack more challenging locks when she was eight.

Her fingers flexed in anticipation. All night she’d felt outside of herself—the stiff dress she was wearing, the way she had to cast her eyes to the floor when spoken to, it was like playing a role she wasn’t suited for. But standing before the safe, she finally felt comfortable in her own skin again.

Pressing her ear against the door, she started to rotate the dial. One click . . . two . . . the sound of metal rubbing against metal in the inner cylinders as she listened for the lock’s heartbeat.

The seconds ticked by with fatal certainty, but the longer she worked, the more relaxed she felt. She could read a lock better than she could read a person. Locks didn’t change on a whim or because of the weather, and there wasn’t a lock yet made that could hide its secrets from her. In a matter of minutes, she had three of the four numbers. She turned the dial again, on her way to the fourth—

“Esta?” Logan hissed, disrupting her concentration. “Are you finished yet?”

The last number lost, she glared over her shoulder at him. “I might be if you’d leave me alone.”

“Hurry up,” he snapped, and then ducked back into the hall, closing the door behind him.

“Hurry up,” she muttered, mimicking his imperious tone as she leaned in again to listen. Like the art of safecracking could be rushed. Like Logan had any idea how to do it himself.

When the final cylinder clicked into place, she felt an echoing satisfaction. Now to try the combinations. Only a minute more and the contents would be open to her. A minute after that and she and Logan would be gone. And Schwab would never know.


She cursed. “Now what?” She didn’t look at Logan this time, keeping her focus on the second, incorrect, combination.

“Someone’s coming.” He glanced behind him. “I’m going to distract them.”

She turned to him then, saw the anxiety tightening his features. “Logan—” But he was already gone.

She thought about helping him, but dismissed that idea and instead turned back to the safe. Logan could take care of himself. Logan would take care of both of them, because that was what they did. That was how they worked. She needed to do her job and leave him to his.

Two more incorrect combinations, and the heat of the room was creeping against her skin, the scent of tobacco and wood smoke burning her throat. She wiped her forehead with the back of her sleeve and tried to ignore the way her dress felt as though it would strangle her.

She tried again, dismissing the trickle of sweat easing its way down her back beneath the layers of fabric. Eight. Twenty-one. Thirteen. Twenty-five. She gave the handle a tug, and to her relief, the heavy door of the safe opened.

Outside the room, she heard the low rumble of male voices, but she was too busy scanning the vault’s contents to pay much attention. The various shelves and compartments were packed with canvas envelopes filled with stock certificates and bonds, file folders stuffed with papers, stacks of neatly bound, oversize bills. She eyed the money, disappointed that she couldn’t take even a dollar of the odd-looking money. For their plan to work, Schwab couldn’t know that anyone had been there.

She found what she was looking for on a lower shelf.

“Hello, beautiful,” she crooned, reaching for the long black box. She barely had it in her hands when the voices erupted in the hallway.

“This is an outrage! I could ruin you with a single telegram,” Logan bellowed, his voice carrying through the heavy door. “When I tell my uncle—no, my grandfather—how abysmally I’ve been treated here,” he continued, “you won’t get another contract on this side of the Mississippi. Possibly not on the other, either. No one of any account will speak to you after I—”

It must be Schwab, Esta thought, pulling a pin from her hair and starting to work on the locked box. Schwab had been trying to make his mark on the city for years. The house was one part of that, but the contents of the box were an even more important part. And it was the contents of the box that Esta needed.

“Be reasonable, Jack.” Another voice—probably Schwab’s. “I’m sure this is a simple misunderstanding—”

Panic inched along her skin as her mind caught up with the man’s words. Jack? So Schwab wasn’t the only one out there.

However good Logan might be, it was never optimal to be outnumbered. In and out fast, with minimal contact. That was the rule that kept them alive.

She wiggled the hairpin in the lock for a few seconds, until she felt the latch give way and the box popped open.

“Get your filthy hands off me!” Logan shouted, loud enough for Esta to hear. It was a sign that things were escalating too quickly for him to contain.

She set the box back on a shelf so she could lift her skirts and remove the knife hidden there. Even with the scuffle in the hall, Esta felt a flash of admiration for Mari’s handiwork as she compared the knife from her skirts to the jewel-encrusted dagger lying in the black velvet of the box. Her friend had done it again—not that she was surprised.

Mariana Cestero could replicate anything—any material from any time period, including Logan’s engraved invitation for the party that night and the six-inch dagger Esta had been carrying in the folds of her skirt. The only thing Mari couldn’t completely replicate was the stone in the dagger’s hilt, the Pharaoh’s Heart, because the stone was more than it appeared to be.

An uncut garnet rumored to be taken from one of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the stone was believed to contain the power of fire, the most difficult of all elements to manipulate. Fire, water, earth, sky, and spirit, the five elements that the Order of Ortus Aurea was obsessed with understanding and using to build its power.

They were wrong, of course. Elemental magic wasn’t anything but a fairy tale created by those without magic—the Sundren—to explain things they didn’t understand. But misunderstanding magic didn’t make the Order any less dangerous. Just because the stone didn’t control fire didn’t mean there wasn’t something special about the Pharaoh’s Heart. Professor Lachlan wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise.

Even in the soft light thrown by the fire, the garnet was polished so smoothly it almost glowed. Without trying, Esta could feel the pull of the stone, sensed herself drawn to it, not like she’d been drawn to the diamond stickpin, but on a deeper, more innate level.

After all, elemental magic might be a fairy tale, but magic itself was real enough.

Organizations like the Order of Ortus Aurea had been trying to claim magic as their own for centuries. Schwab had purchased the dagger and arranged the night’s auction in the hopes of buying his way into the Order, but since the only magic the Order possessed was artificial and corrupt ceremonial magic—pseudoscientific practices like alchemy and theurgy—they wouldn’t be able to sense what Esta could. They wouldn’t know that Mari’s stone was a fake until much later, when they were running their experiments and trying to harness the stone’s power. Even then they would assume it was Schwab who had cheated them . . . or that Schwab couldn’t tell the difference to start with. Schwab himself would believe that the antiquities dealer who’d sold him the dagger had swindled him. No one would realize the truth—the real Pharaoh’s Heart had been taken right out from under them.

Esta made the switch, placing the counterfeit dagger into the velvet-lined box and tucking the real dagger back into the hidden pocket of her skirt. It was heavier than the one she’d been carrying all night, like the Pharaoh’s Heart had an unexpected weight and density that Mari hadn’t predicted. For a moment Esta worried that maybe Schwab would notice the difference. Then she thought of the house—his overdone attempt to display the number in his bank account—and she shook off her fears. Schwab wasn’t exactly the type to understand which details mattered.

Outside the room, something crashed as an unfamiliar voice shouted. More quickly now, Esta locked the box, careful to put it back on the shelf exactly as it had been, and closed the safe. She was securing the bookcase when she heard Logan shout—an inarticulate grunt of pain.

And then a gunshot shattered the night.

No! Esta thought as she sprinted for the door, the crack of gunfire still ringing in her ears. She needed to get to Logan. He might be a pain in the ass, but he was their pain in the ass. And it was her job to get them both out.

At the other end of the hall, Logan lay on the floor, trying to pull himself up, while Schwab attempted to wrestle the gun away from a balding blond man in a tuxedo that bulged around his thick middle. Struggling against Schwab, the blond leveled the gun at Logan again.

Esta comprehended the entire scene in an instant and immediately took a deep, steadying breath, forcing herself to ignore the chaos in front of her. She focused instead on the steady beating of her own heart.

Thump. Tha-thump.

As regular as the cylinders of a lock tumbling into place.

Thump. Tha-thump.

In the next beat, time went thick for her, like the world around her had nearly frozen: Schwab’s wobbling jowls stilled. The angry sweat dripping from the blond man’s temple seemed to be suspended in midair as it fell in excruciatingly slow motion toward the floor.

It was as though someone were advancing the entire world like a movie, frame by painstaking frame. And she was that someone.

Find the gaps between what is and isn’t, Professor Lachlan had taught her.

Because magic wasn’t in the elements. Magic lived in the spaces, in the emptiness between all things, connecting them. It waited there for those who knew how to find it, for those who had the born ability to grasp those connections—the Mageus.

For those like Esta.

She hadn’t needed magic earlier that night, not to escape the party or to pick the lock, but she needed it now, so she let herself open to its possibilities. It was almost as natural as breathing for her to find the spaces between the seconds and the beating of hearts. She rushed toward Logan, stealing time as she darted through the nearly frozen tableau.

But she couldn’t stop time completely. She couldn’t reverse the moment to stop the blond’s finger from pressing the trigger again.

She wasn’t quite to Logan when the sound of the gun shattered her concentration. She lost her hold on time, and the world slammed back into motion. For Esta, it felt like an eternity between the door of the billiards room to where she was standing, exposed, in the hallway, but for the two men, her appearance would have been instantaneous. For members of the Order, it would have been immediately recognizable as the effect of magic.

The men froze for a moment, their eyes almost comically wide. But then the blond seemed to gather his wits about him. He jerked away from Schwab, lifted the dark pistol, and took aim.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Last Magician

By Lisa Maxwell

About the Book

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. 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.

Discussion Questions

1. A prologue is often used to give background information and/or to grab readers’ attention with the opening scene. What details about the story did you learn? Did it pique your interest and make you want to read the rest of the book? What questions did it bring up?

2. What do you think is the primary genre of the book? What are some of the subgenres? How can stories that blend several genres or subgenres create more interest for the reader?

3. Discuss the different settings in the book—both the “wheres” and the “whens.” How many were there? Did you find the plot more challenging to follow because setting wasn’t only dictated by location, but also by time? Esta thinks “The only way to go was forward.” Why doesn’t she think about going back in time when it’s possible for her to do so?

4. The author provides rich detail about the world she’s created: the theater, the Strega, the Brink, and the Haymarket. How much of this detail is imaginary, and how much is based on how life really was in 1902? How can the distant past seem fantastical or imaginary, even when you’re presented with facts from the time period?

5. What were your impressions of Esta and Logan when they were introduced in the first theft scene? Did you like either of them? What did their partnership on this job tell you about their personalities? Their relationship?

6. When did you first suspect that Esta was a time traveler? Can you name some clues given in that first scene? Why is Esta’s ability to travel through time important to the plot and/or theme? What time period would you visit if you had that ability?

7. Discuss Esta’s ability to manipulate time, and the intriguing idea that time is attached to place. Can you name places you’ve visited with a strong sense of history, where you could almost sense the layers of time? Can you name other books that feature a character time traveling without using a machine?

8. When Esta meets with the Professor, she thinks: “But he never did anything unless he was already sure how it would turn out.” Taking risks—or not—is one of the major themes of the book. Which characters are risk takers, and why? What’s the difference between carelessly taking risks and thoughtfully taking risks?

9. Trusting someone with your secrets is one of the biggest risks that can be taken. When Esta is deciding whether or not she should save Logan, she thinks: “Never reveal what you can do. It was one of their most important rules.” Harte’s profession is also based on keeping secrets. Why are Harte and Esta able to share some of their secrets? Which characters have secrets they are not willing to share?

10. When meeting with Dolph, Harte thinks: “He always did manage to find out the very things a person wanted to keep hidden.” Discuss how different it is to share your secrets than to have them stolen from you. Harte’s magical gift is that he can read people’s thoughts. What are the moral implications of this gift? What are the dangers? Would you use this gift if you had it?

11. Would you agree that trust is one of the novel’s themes? If so, discuss which characters extend trust to another and which are betrayed: Jack/Harte; Harte/Esta; Esta/Dolph; Dolph/Nibs. At one point, Harte determines to “trust no one but himself.” Discuss the consequences of making that decision.

12. Why does Harte believe that the theater is a perfect place for Mageus to hide? Do you agree with him? What are some stereotypes about “theater people”? Is that community more accepting of differences? Why?

13. Why do you think the author chose the city of New York as the setting for the story? Why did she choose to include some real historical New Yorkers in the story? Can you think of other books and movies set in New York? Can you suggest reasons for the allure of that particular city? How different would the story have been if it had been set in another city?

14. The Order are prejudiced against the immigrant Mageus, calling them “maggots” who “need to be eliminated.” The author writes of “the heady sense of righteousness that can only come from belief in purpose.” Draw some parallels from this attitude to some real historical times. Why are people so afraid of anyone who seems different from them? Why, in history, have there been repeated times of suspicion and persecution of immigrants? Do you believe, as Dolph says, that the Order and the Mageus have “more in common than we have differences”? Consider the the fact that the Order were once immigrants themselves.

15. How do you feel about the character of Nibs/Professor Lachlan? Do you understand his motives? Does the author succeed in making readers sympathize with him when he talks about his hard early life? Looking back, what were the clues that he was living in both times? Did you trust him when he was helping Dolph?

16. Dolph says, “There never was much of a line between science and magic.” Do you understand what he means? Can you give some examples of modern science or technology that would have seemed like magic in a past historical time?

17. Discuss the role of motivation as it applies to some of the characters. What is Esta’s primary motivation for wanting to see her assignment through to the end? Is at least part of her motivation due to her feeling of guilt for having changed history? How do their families motivate Harte and Jack in different ways?

18. Jianyu says to Dolph, “People do all manner of things when fear drives their hearts.” Give some examples from the book that prove him right. How effective is fear as a motivator?

Extension Activities: Writing & Research

1. On the opening page of the story, the author says, “But then, people usually do miss what’s right in front of them.” Write an essay about the role of preconceptions and prejudices in this book and how it relates to theme, character, and plot.

2. The ending of the book seems to suggest there will be a sequel. If you agree, create an outline of what you think the major plot points will be.

3. Choose one of the intriguing chapter titles from the book and use it as a writing prompt to create an original short story.

4. Research and write a report on any of the real New Yorkers, or New York places, that appear in the story.

5. Choose one of the characters in the story and write an essay examining the way they exhibit one of the story’s major themes.

6. The Brooklyn Bridge has an important role in the book. Write an essay on its symbolism in the book. Can you include other examples of bridges used as symbols?

7. At one point, Dolph tells Esta: “No one can survive on their own.” Write an opinion essay supporting or opposing this statement.

8. Choose a time period in history when a culture or nation struggled with immigrants and write a report about that struggle.

Guide written by Bobbie Combs, a consultant at We Love Children's Books.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

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The Last Magician 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Kibbyra 8 months ago
Maxwell somehow manages to navigate the complexities of time travel stories with ease and delivers a fantastically in depth and twisty novel. The characters are rich and deep and diverse, while the plot is intricate and well structured. Sometimes the pacing felt a little off, but not so much that I wanted to stop reading. I love the slow burn romance and can't wait to see what Maxwell brings in the next book. I 100% recommend for anyone who likes magic and time travel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Back when I first received The Last Magician, I tried to start reading it and I just could not get into it. Recently I bought myself an Audible subscription and decided that I should try the Audiobook version to see if that helped my focus. I got about 20% of the way through and I decided to give up on it. The plot was starting to pick up and the characters were developing and new characters were even being introduced but I was not able to feel for them or the situation at all... and I really tried. I just was not feeling this book, which is sad because I know so many people really enjoyed it. The book has a bunch of time jumps and various characters that all come together eventually I assume (probably in the end ...which I didn't get to), however with all the different characters and all the time changes it was hard for me to follow since it wasn't already grabbing my full focus. Esta, the main character, from the beginning, seemed stubborn and impulsive and so when things happened to her I wasn't surprised that she was getting into trouble, nor did I feel for her as the protagonist. This has the potential to be the beginning to a great fantasy series, it just wasn't for me right now, maybe I will try it again down the road.
MandyB87 More than 1 year ago
A great magical adventure! Time-travelling is such a great element that really is under-utilized in the entertainment industry. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
AlainaEvans More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure when going into this book if I was going to like it. I'm usually iffy about period pieces but this book grabbed me immediately and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The incorporation of magic in this world was amazing and I love the changing of it through the years. It is explained in such a way that is easy to fall into the world. I love the explanation that over the years magic has changed and sort of faded so much in people that something that was once a power is now more a skill someone will have. I also see parallels to today's political climate and world. The characters are all pretty well-rounded and flow easily. I especially like that there aren't extra descriptions that aren't needed. Everything is pretty straightforward and that's the way I like to read things. It's also the way I write. I've never been to New York and don't know much of the history but I feel like Lisa Maxwell did a great job of historically fleshing the world out. I believe 100% the physical history of New York outlined in TLM. I really enjoyed this world and I can't wait to keep reading more of the series.
NovaEstelle More than 1 year ago
Usually, I shy away from time travel books because I tend to take some issue with them, like with complicated plots involving rules of time travel and it not being done well. However, I really enjoyed this book, and I think because the focus wasn't so much on the mechanics behind the time travel, but on being immersed in 1902 New York, that I was more okay with it. This book gave me Six of Crows and A Darker Shade of Magic vibes. There's a heist plot, and little cons along the way, with rival gangs, a leader of the gang called the Devil's Own, who has a limp + cane + is a morally gray character, and people with the ability to use magic who are called Mageus. However, the Mageus in the story are treated badly, persecuted, in hiding from the Order (a group of people who consist of the rich and powerful in New York who don't have magic and believe in the occult sciences), and trapped by a border of corrupt magic called the Brink that Mageus can't cross without losing their magic and/or dying. The book talks quite a bit about immigration and immigrants and how they're treated, especially the Mageus, which probably matches the attitude toward real immigrants during that time, but also parallels what's going on today too. There's little twists along the way, one big one that I suspected, but also some other big surprises near the end. The book is set in 3rd person omniscient, and it was interesting to see everyone's thoughts, into their personalities, and what drives them. Esta's struggles with the knowledge of her future/present-day friends, doing her job, and getting to know and care for the past 1902 crew she's going to betray. She's a good thief, and clever, and was enjoyable to read. I loved her sassy dialogue and chemistry with Harte. Harte Darrigan is the Magician she's supposed to stop. he loves the spotlight, pretends to be a regular magician, and wants to rise above where he grew up, and after Dolph (the leader of the Devil's Own) puts the idea in his head, wants to leave New York City. He also plays a game of deception and lies like Esta, running many cons along the way and having his own objective, which is to steal the Book (the Ars Arcana) for himself. I loved whenever he and Esta were on the same page, and while there's instant attraction on his part, the romance is only part of the plot, not the focus, and I'm loving the slow burn. Dolph, Jianyu, and Viola were all interesting characters with their own fraught histories and unique personalities. There's different affinities for magic that the characters have (for example, Viola has an affinity for healing or killing, Jianyu can control light) that add to the story, a wide cast of characters beyond those that Esta deals with, and I really enjoyed the world building. Some areas were a little slow for my taste, but the book was still good, and I'm really looking forward to book 2, especially with that ending!
The_Dwarf_Did_It More than 1 year ago
Everything about this book is amazing. Characters, setting, plot, story telling, THE COVER! This book is getting a 5 star rating from me 100% and I’ll be diving into The Devil’s Thief very very very soon.
Lauren716 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was so much fun and the characters were amazing. It is certainly worth picking up to read.
PalmKD More than 1 year ago
This captivating story has so many good elements and characters. The research that went into writing it shows in how well constructed the world is and it is so easy to get lost in the story. It tells the story of a thief, Esta, who can travel between times. Esta travels back to 1902 where she is to preform her biggest heist of all, stealing THE BOOK from the magician. This is not just any book, but the book that holds all the secrets and will determine the future for the Mageus (those with an affinity for magic). The story takes place in New York, mostly in 1902, but despite the year, always in New York. 1902 is gritty and dark and full of mistrust for magic with the desire to control it. Strongly recommend!!
JillJemmett More than 1 year ago
I loved the plot in this story. It reminded me of the heist in Six of Crows, but less intense and complex. I had a hard time getting into the story at the beginning, because there were so many characters! The narrative kept switching between different characters, and some had similar names, or were referred to as their first and last names alternately so I thought they were different people. It was especially confusing because there were a few different gang leaders who ran the city. At about a quarter of the way through the book I had everyone sorted out. I loved the time travel aspects of the story. Though there wasn’t a lot of switching between different time periods, Esta’s actions in the past altered the future. She could see that from the way that the newspaper clipping that she brought from the future changed when different things happened. The ending was fantastic. There were a bunch of surprises that I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Last Magician is officially one of my favorite books ever written. I finished it a few months ago and instantly fell in love with Esta’s personality. When I met Harte, I don’t think words can describe the depth of how much I just loved him. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say I was heartbroken and can’t wait to read the second book of TLM. (I think my family’s convinced I’m insane due to the facial expressions made while I read the book).
Queen-Kimmie More than 1 year ago
I attained an ARC of this at Yallwest not even knowing what it was but OMG. This was an amazing read. Definitely a new favorite whose sequel I cannot wait to read and this book still isn't even out... The writing keeps you in the story quite well, it does need some grammatical editing that I would assume will be fixed in the final published version (I have my finished copy and the errors have all been fixed!). I loved the multidimensional characters, the fun historical setting, and the twisting keep you on your toes plot. Who doesn't love time travel, magic, thieves, and heists? Just go, go read this amazing not-so-little book. I'm also super excited that my name will be in the acknowledgements of the sequel since I was one of the top promoters of this book!
B3tweenthepage More than 1 year ago
I’ve been seeing the book around for a bit, always picked it up, and continued to leave it. Finally, I took the plunge and bought it. WHY DIDN’T I DO IT SOONER. Time travel related in anything is sketchy and--in my opinion--hard to make sense. Lisa Maxwell made it simple, to the point, and very efficient. The main character Esta is very likable, kick ass, yet not superhuman. Which I like. I couldn’t help getting attached to almost everyone Esta met, and feeling more and more excited about the story as it progressed. The way the magic worked was simple and clean, everyone had their own talents in one way or another. The plot was well driven, the writing even better, and I know I said it but, THOSE. CHARACTERS. And that ending? Broke my heart, had me shocked, and most importantly, had me screaming for more. I cannot wait for the second book. 5 out of 5 stars
Derek Beaudry More than 1 year ago
i loved the book! the way that time travel was explained had a fresh feel to it. i think it was probably my favorite points of the book. the relationship betweem the characters was great as well. this was definitely one i couldn't put down.
Chrystal1331 More than 1 year ago
Thought this story was amazing. Loved the mentioning of great people I admire including J P Morgan. FYI: He's the one who owned The White Star Line as in the Titanic! I didn't want the story to end. Thank goodness the sequel Devil's Own is coming!
Cambear More than 1 year ago
Ambitious, twisty, sprawling...this is a big book with lots of story. This historic fantasy is very grounded in turn of the century New York with tons of details to make the period come alive. It's a very rich world with lots of depth about magic, history and the complicated politics of the time. Esta, Dolph, Harte, James and so many others are after the Book of Mysteries. It's fascinating to follow each character as they scheme their way to the book for personal gain or more altruistic reasons. Clearly they don't all trust each other...for good reason. As a time traveler, Esta has a more modern attitude which makes her stand out in 1901. She's headstrong, clever and skilled. She and Harte also have an undeniable connection which just complicates things further. It's an enjoyable big adventure with a satisfying ending even as the door is open for another big adventure in the sequel.
Cambear More than 1 year ago
Ambitious, twisty, sprawling...this is a big book with lots of story. This historic fantasy is very grounded in turn of the century New York with tons of details to make the period come alive. It's a very rich world with lots of depth about magic, history and the complicated politics of the time. Esta, Dolph, Harte, James and so many others are after the Book of Mysteries. It's fascinating to follow each character as they scheme their way to the book for personal gain or more altruistic reasons. Clearly they don't all trust each other...for good reason. As a time traveler, Esta has a more modern attitude which makes her stand out in 1901. She's headstrong, clever and skilled. She and Harte also have an undeniable connection which just complicates things further. It's an enjoyable big adventure with a satisfying ending even as the door is open for another big adventure in the sequel.
MariaLuizaSilva More than 1 year ago
Do you know the feeling when you see a book and simply knows that you must read it? Suddendly, the book is on the top of your wish list and you no even know what it is about. That was exactly what happened to me when I saw the cover of The last magician. All I knew about it was that it is a urban fantasy. However, The last magician is much more than that. It is a mixture of magic, historical fiction, time travels, romance and adventure. The setting of the book is a New York divided by social conflicts and territory disputes. The plot is very original and involving. The way the story was developed captures the attention of the reader and I couldn’t stop reading. The story is dynamic and there is a sense of urgency since the beginning that makes the reading very interesting. Another good aspect about the book is the characters. All of them are complex and very human, what made it easy for me to start caring for them. Especially, I got really found of Esta, Doulph and Hart. There is also romance in this book and what I liked about it was that it isn't central in the story. I mean... the romance is good and is an important part of the book, but it is not central in the story. The characters had other priorities and they did not forget about it because of the romance. In that sense, although I were optimistic for The last magician, it overcome all my expectations and was an amazing surprise. The book brings interesting subjects and it’s an incredible combination of fantasy, adventure, fiction and romance. Lisa Maxwell’s writing is very involving and I couldn’t stop reading until I finished the book. Besides, the characters are very charismatic and the universe is very complex, which makes the book even more interesting. The book is full of surprises and, at the end, it’s impossible not to feel anxious to read the next book.
Addicted2FantaC More than 1 year ago
Review taken from Before we even get into any sort of review on the book, look at that cover!! If I was picking a book solely on cover, this would make my “to be read” pile in a heartbeat. Notice the slight twist on the ouroboros here. Generally you would have a snake eating its own tail but here there are two snakes devouring each other, one of which is in skeletal form. I think I will just be a tease and tell you to read the book to find the meaning of the cover rather than give it to you here. Yes, I know that might be a bit cruel but 1) it is definitely worth the read to find out and 2) this is my section of the blog so we play by my rules and I say no spoilers if they can be avoided! Now then, we start this book with a flashback to 1901 New York and what really seems like the end of a story relating to The Magician. This sets up the story beautifully by introducing you to a character and a scene which becomes so much more detailed the further along you go. Time travelers get ready because you are taken between several time periods during the beginning of this story. We meet the main character Esta who was absolutely fantastic throughout the story. You barely scratch the surface on the character at the onset as she is full of surprises. When I look for a new read I want to see a few things. Is there a story I can get behind? Am I excited over where I think this story will take my mind? Do I think I will like the characters based on the summary of the book? In this case, all three boxes were checked. I have been wrong in the past but this was not one of those times. From the start I could not put this book down. As you flip from one POV to another there are new developments and twists and characters that keep you on your toes. While falling in love with the main characters, to be able to care about some of the minor characters as well, is what really took this read to another level for me. I have said time and again that I like puzzles. I am at times able to figure out how a book will end or what twist will come at the end and my enjoyment is sometimes reduced by this. I was able to do no such thing with The Last Magician. There is enough going on and enough twists that every time you think you know what will happen, BAM! something happens and changes what you were thinking. Another problem I sometimes have is that the big reveal and/or the ending of a book just leaves me kind of mehhhh. This was not the case here. You wait so long to get to the end to see how things turn out for our cast of characters and there was ZERO disappointment factor there. I absolutely loved the ending to this book!! I cannot wait for the next installment. The way this book ends perfectly sets up where book 2 will start and some challenges that will be present within it. Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy of The Last Magician and thank me when you are done reading.
hermitlibrarian More than 1 year ago
Magic, magic in danger, Old New York, time travel...all story elements that piqued my interest. Time travel is an amazing storytelling device. Sometimes it can be confusing, such as when potential paradoxes pop up or the varying ways timelines can change. While I was a bit thrown at first in The Last Magician, what with Esta's timeline hopping ability being demonstrated early on and the early 1900's being introduced via Dolph, I hit my stride quickly for which I was very thankful. After a couple of chapters time became easier to separate, people became easier to identify, that sort of thing. One thing that I really liked that helped set up the kind of time travel we were dealing with in Maxwell's book was that when Esta travels back to 1902, she has a newspaper clipping that she had concealed before travelling. Through the changes in it, we get the idea that the past is fluid and her actions are still affecting the future she's hoping to return to. This had been alluded to by an earlier event, but it really strikes home for Esta when she travels back further than she ever has before. I liked finding out the motivations of the cast. everyone's motivations. Esta's and Harte's were, of course, the primary ones to advance the reader, but there is still a lot to be said for the others, such as Dolph, Jack, etc. Even those who's purpose wasn't quite glaringly vital to story line A still held up the supports of the novel well.  The different affinities were interesting to find out as well. Magic is so integral and there's a very real fear about it disappearing forever, but there's also not a 100% reliance on it. Esta, for example, was taught to be a thief without her magic before she learned to work her affinity into her work. Harte learned to use effects in his act, such as false thumbs to hide pins. One of the few things I would have liked to add to the book as an extra would've been a table at the end that listed everyone's affinity because sometimes it became difficult to remember who could do what because they also had such amazing skills that weren't magical at all. The Magician as a character was another great character. So many assumptions, so many ideas had about this character and I had my suspicions about their identity. It was such an engaging thread to follow through the story, waiting to see when it would finally connect to all the others. Lisa Maxwell found a great way to weave a long story (500 pages in my edition) into a pleasant, lose yourself in the pages way. It was almost heartbreaking to put this book down at the end, but reading it this long after publication means I don't have to wait as long for book two, The Devil's Thief, due out in October.
agustina_z More than 1 year ago
The world is divided between people who have an affinity with magic, and those who don't. Among the latter, there is the Order, a group dedicated to science and reason who will do anything to trap and stop the Mageus, those who use magic. This rivalry made the story fascinating, making us go deep in a chain of mysteries and secrets. To stop the Order and destroy the Breach that prevents the Mageus from escaping the city, Esta must go back to the past and stop the Magician to get a book that will change everything. The subject of this book is so interesting. Time travel, powers... two things that I love. The world created by the author is fascinating, mixing the past and the present with a very good investigation, not only of context but also of physics, chemistry and alchemy. There are several amazing plot twists, which I honestly didn't expect at all and they took me completely by surprise. Revelations that I never imagined, and I really liked that. This book has several main characters that are very interesting and particular, as well as their powers. It has several points of view, which I think is great to understand each of them. There is even a great development of the secondary characters. Esta, being so impulsive and audacious, was one of the characters that I liked the most. Also the Magician, who was gaining my affection little by little. And Dolph, a character that fascinates me since before reading the book. I liked the interactions between the characters, some full of drama and others with a bit of humor. There is a little of romance in this book and a lot of action, but I think it was the twists and the setting that I liked most about this story. The ending was impressive and left me wanting to read the next book. The Last Magician is a slow pace reading, but I loved it anyway. I hope to read the next book soon.
RgBooktrovert More than 1 year ago
Thrilling, mysterious, and full of magic and mayhem. I was kept constantly guessing: who, what, when, why? The world building was fantastic, the characters were complex, and their affinities were fascinating! The book was fast paced especially for being a brick. I also loved the author's writing style and excellent descriptions. The ending was wrapped up perfectly and I can't wait for The Devil's Thief! Rating: 4.5 Stars!
Bookworm867 More than 1 year ago
Such a wild ride. These characters remind me a lot of those from Six of Crows (which is DEFINITELY not a bad thing); they are strong-willed, powerful, sympathetic characters that pull you deeper in the story. I cannot wait for the second book!!!!
journeyintotheshelves More than 1 year ago
There are some books that you read and hope that it’ll be a movie, and there are others that you see a movie as you read. The Last Magician is a part of the latter. With her book Unhooked and now this one, Lisa Maxwell is quickly becoming one of my favorite fantasy writers of recent years. Filled with dynamic characters, great romance, and an intricate and unique magic system, The Last Magician is a whirlwind of a novel that will suck you in full mind and body. The world building in this book was incredible; the amount of research that Maxwell must have put into unraveling what life was like in early 1900s New York City is clear on every page. The plot is complex, detailed, and easy to understand. It is full of action and depth, and continuously took turns in places I didn’t expect. At first I was a bit hesitant since this novel dealt with time travel. While time travel is one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy tropes, it’s also the trope I’m the pickiest about. However, Maxwell handles time travel in all it’s aspects and consequences so well that it didn’t bother me one bit. The logic behind it was reminiscent of Doctor Who which I absolutely loved. The characters were truly the heart of this book. Dynamic and real, Maxwell didn’t leave any stone unturned when creating them. Each had their own distinct personality, morality, and goals that helped push the entire novel forward flawlessly. The characters very much deal in a morally gray area of life, which was my favorite aspect of this book. There wasn’t one person who was the clear cut “good guy” — no one was afraid of doing whatever it took to get what they wanted. To use Hogwarts houses as a reference, this entire book was filled with Slytherins and it was just incredible to read. I thought I loved Maxwell’s romance in her last novel I read, Unhooked, but this one was even better. The romance that develops is the most delicious slow burn romance that I’ve read in the longest time. It left my skin crawling in the best way at moments throughout the book. Their banter was incredible, and I just wanted more from them constantly. The Last Magician was one of my most anticipated releases of 2017, and it completely lived up to my own hype. The story flew by so quickly, and I just wanted more once I turned the final page. If you’re a fan of fantasy, this is not one to miss.
24hr_yabookblog More than 1 year ago
The Last Magician mixes fantasy with Historical Fiction as we follow Esta and her journey to find an ancient book in the year 1902 to save magicians such as herself! The plot definitely has elements of fantasy, mystery and adventure to keep you turning the page! While this book wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, there were definitely elements I really enjoyed and the plot itself has me intrigued to read the sequel and see what happens next! I did find at times the writing did more "telling" than showing and because of that I found it tough to connect with the characters. Additionally, through the multiple perspectives (in 3rd Person POV), I did find that the pacing became extremely slow. The magic system was very interesting & I can't wait to see how the author expands on it in future books! Overall, The Last Magician is an enjoyable historical + urban fantasy novel to check out! The story itself has a lot of good elements for an immersive and character-driven tale!
coffeecocktailsandbooks More than 1 year ago
This was such a fun read; the story itself was great as well. I personally love multiple perspectives in fantasy books, especially when different characters have different relationships to the magic and MC. Being able to go inside of the character’s mind when the events are unfolding is great. That being said, I’m happy that the author only uses another perspective when that’s what’s needed to move the plot forward. I know that sounds dumb, but what I mean is that the POV will only switch if another character’s POV is necessary for fully understanding the next part of the plot. They can still be in the same setting as the previous character, but for some reason, it was that character that was needed to show the emotion in the scene. From what I understand, this is very Martin-esque (I have not read the Song of Ice & Fire books, but I hear that’s how is POV tends to work). The characters were also super likable. Esta was a badass MC from present day that was thrust into a sexist world in the early 1900s. This is actually addressed throughout the book; things that Esta can or cannot do because she’s a woman in this time. I absolutely loved that this was addressed. I cannot think of another time travel story (if you know of one, PLEASE let me know!) that addresses the social change this head on without making it the focus of the story. Harte was an interesting flawed character with a mixed moral compass. I liked how he mirrored Dolph in his motives. The magic system in this book was a lot of fun. People did not “do magic”, rather they had a “gift” or “talent” (similar to a superpower) that was unique to the individual. Interestingly though, other Maegus could detect magic being used. I also thought the ways the magic was perceived in the society was done well. Having the “magic is bad” stance in the urban fantasy society was something that could have been painfully clichéd but was approached in a way that didn’t feel too familiar or overdone. So, when I was reading this book, I (kind of) did a buddy read with Jessica from TheLitteraryBird (be sure to check out her review, she’s great!). She did point out a number of spelling/grammatical errors throughout of the book. I didn’t notice these at first, but once they were pointed out, I did pick up on some throughout the rest of the book. Some were distracting from the narrative, others were not. I also had the odd sensation that different parts of the book had different ratings. The beginning was interesting for me (like 3.5-4 stars), but it didn’t hook me. I know other people didn’t really like it at first. Then the middle was a bit slow, well my reading of it was considerably slower. This part was more of a 3-star read. The ending was fantastic. Like the last 100-150 pages were worth recommending the book alone. This was a 5-star ending. This made rating the overall book kind of hard (not really, but I had to take a minute to rate the entire book, not just the parts I liked/didn’t like). I’ll go more into this in the spoiler corner, but the plot itself was great. The basic time travel story was elevated in this urban fantasy setting. There were some parts of the book I was expecting to be predictable and tropey, but that wasn’t the case. There were some parts that I saw coming, others that took me by surprise, and overall this book was great. Easily one of my new favorites. **This review has been shortened. Full review can be found on coffeecocktailsandbooks [dot] com **