THE LAST MAGICIANAuthor: Lisa Maxwell
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
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 1901 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.
What was the most surprising thing about becoming a published author?Lisa Maxwell: The most surprising thing is that people actually read and buy my books. I’m sure that sounds odd, but when I first started writing, I figured I’d be the only one who would ever read these stories. It is such an honor each and every time someone takes the time to sit down with my characters or is willing to part with their hard-earned money to have one of my books on their shelf. It really never gets old, and I don’t think it ever will.
Why do you write for younger audiences?Lisa Maxwell: When I was a teenager, there wasn’t really “YA literature.” There wasn’t a whole section of books meant just for me, for what I was dealing with or my world view. I think I love writing for a younger audience because I get to make the stories and books that I wish I’d had. When I was in middle school and high school, I read so many assigned books that changed me—that changed how I thought or who I wanted to be. That period in your life is such an exciting and terrifying and thrilling one, because you get to start choosing who you’re going to be, who you want to be as an adult. I love having the chance to be part of that moment for readers.
Describe THE LAST MAGICIAN in 10 words or less.Lisa Maxwell: Gangs of New York with Magic. And time travel.
How does the magic system work and what inspired it?Lisa Maxwell: In THE LAST MAGICIAN, natural magic is very organic—it exists in the spaces between atoms, the very makeup of the world. Mageus, or people who have an affinity for natural magic, have the ability to manipulate those spaces, but magic itself is akin to a talent. A Mageus might have a stronger affinity or might have an affinity that is very slight, like someone who is just really amazing at gardening might just have an affinity for manipulating plants or light.
In terms of the larger world building, magic has a very specific history in the book. Once, magic was simply a part of the world, but in the 1400-1500s, a movement called the Disenchantment swept across Europe and the rest of the world, seeking out and eradicating magic. This was the period of witch-hunts and inquisitions, and the rise of the Enlightenment, when reason began to rule. During the Disenchantment, Magic became nothing more than a superstition, and those that had an affinity for it, the Mageus, were forced into hiding. But during the Disenchantment, groups interested in the occult—in alchemy and astronomy and other mystical studies—tried to create their own magic. The Order in THE LAST MAGICIAN is one of these groups. They believe that natural magic is feral, and the only safe magic is the pseudo-scientific occult studies they pursue.
But because magic is so organic, weakening one part weakens the whole. As magic started to wane and Magues started to die out, they were often forced to leave their homelands to seek a new life, like so many other immigrants. Manhattan was supposed to be a place where they could be safe, a place where they didn’t have to worry about their magic dying out, but when they arrived, they were trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier created by the Order.
The thing about magic in THE LAST MAGICIAN is that it needs to be part of a whole—it needs connections. So as people leave their homelands and their traditions and languages behind, their overall magic gets weaker. While I wouldn’t go so far as saying that magic in THE LAST MAGICIAN is an allegory for culture, the experiences of so many immigrants—both in the early 20th century and today—very much inspired me. I come from a family of mostly Italian immigrants, but my family has none of the language and no real link to anyone or anything in Italy anymore, mostly because of policies in the early 20th century to assimilate the incoming immigrants. I wanted magic to work a bit like that—coming to New York meant giving up more than these Mageus realize.
What makes Esta a great main character? Why was it so important to tell the story from her perspective?Lisa Maxwell: Esta is probably the most kick-ass heroine I’ve ever written. She doesn’t have some secret power she has to discover. She’s not some chosen one who realizes her destiny. She’s just really talented and works really, really hard to be good at what she does—which just so happens to be traveling through time to steal things. She’s tough as nails and knows her own worth, which made her an absolute treat to write. But she has a soft underbelly, too. She’s still trying to figure out where she belongs, and that made her story really important to me.
The story is definitely her story, but hers isn’t the only perspective in the book. THE LAST MAGICIAN is actually narrated in 3rd person, and you’ll get the perspectives of many of the main characters. Everyone in this book has their own motives and secrets, and no one is ever quite what they appear to be on the surface.
What was your favourite scene to write in the book?Lisa Maxwell: My favorite scene was the one where Esta meets Harte, the Magician, for the first time. I don’t want to give too much away, but he basically manhandles her and she doesn’t just sit back and take it.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?Lisa Maxwell: Oh, that’s a hard one! There is just so much in this book—so many stories and bits of history that I thought were fun and important. But I think one of the main things that drove me to write the story as a whole was the idea that we often forget that we were all immigrants once. Being on the bottom of the heap doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily reach back to pull the next guy up once you climb to the top. In fact, historically, it’s often just the opposite.
Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest, Gathering Deep, and Unhooked. When she's not writing books, she's an English professor at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys.
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