The Last Magician by Lisa MaxwellThe Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician

byLisa Maxwell

Hardcover | July 18, 2017

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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.
Title:The Last MagicianFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:512 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.5 inShipping dimensions:9 × 6 × 1.5 inPublished:July 18, 2017Publisher:Simon PulseLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1481432079

ISBN - 13:9781481432078

Appropriate for ages: 14


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Time Travelling Adventure Time travel isn't usually my thing. It usually makes my head spin. But I gave this book a shot because I wanted to read something new, and the back blurb and cover really caught my attention. In the end, I don't think this book was for me, but the ending was really exciting and filled with twists, and I enjoyed much of what I read. The story was very well constructed and kept me going. The world building and magic were interesting and unique. There were tons of betrayals and nobody trusted anyone, which helped with the drama and suspense, and ultimately led to some shocking moments at the end. For the most part, I enjoyed the characters. Everyone got their time in the spotlight and many crossed paths with one another, but there were some traits of certain characters that annoyed me. I found Esta to be way too reckless in everything she did, to the point where it was almost cruel the way she was treating some people, and I'm a little conflicted on Dolph. Harte was one of my favourite main characters, but definitely think he was too stubborn at certain points. The book was more tension driven action than anything else, and sometimes things would happen that didn't make sense (seriously, were all the buildings in 1902 made of matchbooks? So much fire!), but I was able to continue on without losing interest. The biggest challenge for me was remembering everything I needed to remember. The book is so big and sooooo much is going on, that I would need to take a second to remember it all, thus breaking my immersion a little bit. But that's really my only nitpick. Despite not capturing my entire interest quite like I wanted it to, THE LAST MAGICIAN is still a well written adventure for anyone who loves magic, twists, and betrayals on nearly every level. The final few chapters are truly head-spinning, and I'm ready to begin the sequel and see where it leads from there!
Date published: 2018-10-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disorganized The Last Magician's page count didn't bother me. I was looking forward to reading this book, especially since it involved time travelling AND magic. But the book has way too many shifting perspectives that I was having a hard time keeping track of who's who and I got bored. Nothing could hold my attention.
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good story! This might be more of a 3.5 star read for me. I'm finding it very difficult to rate books this year for some reason. I really enjoyed this, but there was a lot of stuff that didn't totally add up for me. I found that a lot of the information surrounding The Order to be a little confusing, as well as who was who and what each person really wanted from each.... gang? for the most part I thought the magic made sense and was really interesting, until the end. sometimes the story would take a big turn, but in order for it to make sense there had to be a lot of magic talk, but it didn't always seem like enough for me. especially towards the end. however I did really enjoy the characters, especially Esta and Harte. most of the little heists were good fun and there were some twists and turns I didn't see coming. this book gave me some really big Six of Crows vibes mixed with Back to the Future. because not only is there time travel, but there is an article of Esta's that keeps changing, much like Marty's family picture. some other stuff also felt like a six of Crows version of Back to the Future, but I can't say what without spoiling anything. I enjoyed the book but there were some things throughout that I wasn't really sure about. But I definitely want to read the next one.
Date published: 2018-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best reads of 2017 If you want action, excitement, mystery, intrigue and plot twists, then The Last Magician is completely for you! First off, I need to say that Lisa Maxwell is absolutely phenomenal in her storytelling. I fell in love with this 1900s version of New York and I never wanted to leave it. It's so very hard to write a good historical fantasy that stays true to the time and location that was chosen. I absolutely loved this, and felt completely immersed in this land as much as Esta did. Mystery and intrigue are high up there as we follow Esta back to the past to stop this elusive man known only as The Magician from destroying a book of magic that held secrets to protecting all those born with magical abilities in the future. What a tall order that was, but this girl was courageous - if not a bit too reckless at times. She was an amazing protagonist to follow as she navigated a world that wasn't completely her own yet felt somewhat familiar at the same time. If that wasn't enough, the pacing of the book always felt just right. Yes, it could get a little slower in some places, but this gave room for introducing new characters and building relationships. Although a good romance is always forefront on my mind whenever I read a book, I enjoyed the friendships made along the way in this past time. And the book wasn't completely devoid of romance! The Magician, as it turns out, was no other than Harte Darrigan, an intriguing guy to follow in the book as well. Although it wasn't always clear what his intentions and plans were, he's a character that you can totally put your faith in and support no matter how sketchy others may have viewed him at times. And his chemistry with Esta was tangible, especially when they were at odds with each other. No matter that she's supposedly his enemy and would have to betray him at some point to get the book, there was so much anticipation for what could be between them. And let me just say, it was enough to satisfy, although I honestly can't wait for book 2 to come out already. Even if none of the above has gotten your heart pumping by now, how about this? At the heart of the story, it's a complicated con and heist that the crew Esta joins would need to pull off in order to steal from the horrendous Order that is hunting all magical people. Who doesn't love a good villain, first of all? What's better than some elusive and secretive group chasing the good guys? Honestly, this book HAS IT ALL. Whether you're looking for romance, action, suspense, plot twists, good world building or character development, The Last Magician really does have it all . It's been a long time since I felt this way for a new author, but this feeling Lisa Maxwell induced in me is akin to reading some of Cassandra Clare, J.K. Rowling and Julie Kagawa's books. No matter what you love more, or if you aren't the biggest fan of historical books, trust me, you have GOT to give this a try. It just may change your entire perspective. Or engulf a good portion of your time as you escape into New York, 1902. Overall Recommendation: Words are no match to the strong feelings that The Last Magician has invoked in me. Full of intrigue, suspense, action, character development and romance, Esta's mission into the past to steal back a book that could save other magical people is both daring and more complex than it initially seems. Along the way, you'll fall in love with the people she meets there, from a magical crew who becomes like family and a certain Magician who is more than meets the eye. And if not the people, you'll come to love New York as it was in 1902, with magic as normal as your average person. Lisa Maxwell has created a world that I fell completely into and never wanted to leave. Book 2 is on my most anticipated list for 2018!
Date published: 2018-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well-Written, Complex, and Enjoyable! Released in Canada on July 18, 2017, The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell has been on my list of books to pick up (and read) for quite some time. So I was very excited to unwrap a copy on Christmas morning – so excited, in fact, that it was my first read post-Christmas! The Last Magician is a vivid and compelling tale set throughout time that will keep keep readers guessing until the very last page. Featuring a smart and feisty female protagonist in whom readers will delight, and a delightful crew of outlaws reminiscent of Bardugo’s Six of Crows cast, there’s something for every YA Fantasy lover in here! As soon as I saw The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell described as “New York Gangs meets Six of Crows” I knew I had to read it. And, as I had hoped, Maxwell did not disappoint, producing a story that is full to the brim with fearless characters, devious manipulations, fantastical magic, shocking betrayals and a spectacular, original plot full of twists and turns that will leave the reader reeling – and wanting more! At the heart of this story are two fantastically well-written characters. First is Esta, a time manipulating, time travelling Mageus who has returned to the past to save her future; she is feisty, has a stubborn personality, and is a generally likeable character, despite some minor flaws (these, in my opinion, make her more human). She also has her own set of morals, and values the truth from people above all else. Then there’s Harte, the deviously clever Magician who always has a quick-witted comeback on his tongue, and who has manipulated himself into a position far above what his Mageus blood promised him. He truly starts off as someone the reader would deem to be not trustworthy (after all, he’s the “named” villain), but throughout The Last Magician his character undergoes through development and the reader can’t help but grow to love him. Both have their hearts – and minds – set on stealing the Book during a daring heist planned by gang-boss Dolph, in an attempt to uncover the secret to taking down the Brink. Only Esta knows that Harte is destined to betray the crew, steal the book, and doom the Mageus to what seems to be an eternity trapped in Manhattan. For her part, Esta is devious, clever, and quick on her feet, thinking (or fighting) her way out of more than a few tricky scenarios, while Harte proves to be just as slippery, dancing around Esta’s manipulations as he lays a web of his own. I really enjoyed both characters, as they were both given ample motivation for their actions, and truly did seem to be acting as they thought best to protect those around them, despite the fact that their actions and decisions were often what many would call “morally grey”. Then there’s the other characters – the “crew” that is not unlike Bardugo’s Six of Crows crew, but that is also unique in it’s own way. The crew is comprised of Dolph (a complex character that does what he does for his gang), Nibs (an informant for the gang), Viola (the assassin), Jianhyu (the spy), and Tilly (who takes care of the gang). Much like the Six of Crows crew, they are not exactly what they appear and have their own complexities. Esta and Harte are easily the main protagonists of this books, and thus, the obvious “romantic relationship” one would expect to flourish. And, while they do eventually grow quite close, and while both parties are quite attracted to each other, Maxwell didn’t fall into the typical YA trap of having her two “star-crossed lovers” immediately swoon over one another, share all their deep dark secrets with the other, and come up with a combined plot to save the day and make everyone happy. Instead, despite their growing feelings for one another, the two continue to work at odds with each other right until the end, their personal goals overshadowing their romantic ones in the best way possible. This not only gave a more mature tone to the book, but was also a refreshing take on the typical ill-fated relationship between two “foes”. Theirs is not the only relationship in the book though – Viola, who is established to be a lesbian – clearly has feeling for Tilly, though their relationship is not openly confirmed, despite Viola’s fierce devotion to Tilly. Finally, onto the plot. I was hesitant about how the plot would work, since time travelling can be a tricky manipulation to deal with. I think it has been established (unfortunately) that there is no such thing as a perfect time travel story – there will always be loopholes that can’t be explained, leaving unanswered questions and in some instances, plot holes. The Last Magician, however, avoids being confusing by limiting the amount of time travelling Esta actually does – and when she does time travel, the effects of her time travel are efficiently but clearly explained, ensuring that the reader understands the implications. Focusing on the plot, it was exceptionally well done, from the introduction, to the heist story, to the plot twists and the spectacular ending. Overall, The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell was an exceptionally well-written book, with a highly enjoyable cast of characters, a complex yet not confusing plot, and a satisfying plot twist that will leave readers wanting more (4.5/5).
Date published: 2018-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from awesome! characters were great, plot was awesome, this was a really really great book. it kept me on my toes until the very end and i am very much looking forward to the sequel!!
Date published: 2018-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it so far Currently in the middle of it and so far I am loving it. I like the characters and love the plot. Overall I recommend to read it.
Date published: 2018-01-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great This book was fun to read, being thrown into different times it was great. It took a little for me to get into the book but by the end of it i was eager to find out what happens
Date published: 2018-01-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Do Not Read Poor writing, boring in parts and frustrating in others. Was very dispapointed.
Date published: 2017-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun Adventure! I can’t think of any words to describe how much I enjoyed this book. It was quite an adventure. I love the characters and love/hate the villains (such cool villains, I hate their treachery and think they’re amazing all in the same thought). It’s unpredictable! Can’t wait for the next book!
Date published: 2017-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely loved it! First off, thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for sending an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to begin. When I had first received an ARC copy of Lisa Maxwell’s other book, Unhooked (a Peter Pan-ish retelling), I knew that she was an amazing author. Then this book came to my door and I completely devoured it. Everything about this book screams READ ME NOW! First, let’s talk about this cover. The intertwining of snakes, which proves the double meaning it has in the book, #perfect. This book went from 0 to 100 real quick, to the point where I read close to 300 pages in one day just to finish the book. Of corse, that was after I was done yelling at the characters in it. And trust me, there was a lot of yelling, almost to the point of me throwing the book across my room. Etta, the main character, has the ability to travel back in time. Of corse, she is sent back to my favourite time period, the early 19th century. Ugh, right from here, I knew that it was going to be a long night of me staying up and reading it. Everything about this time is historic (if that is the right word), and it is set in New York City, one of the major boom cities. The characters are all there own. Each one is well-rounded and is uniquely different from one another. And to quote the author herself, the book has a bunch of “cute boys in suspenders”, which, in my terms, is enough to win me over. Every character has their flaw, whether it be about their family, or that they are hiding their own secret, it is up for you to find out. Traveling along-side Esta, readers are taken back and forth between the past and present, in which both places have been corrupted by The Order, and need to stop them. The beginning was a bit confusing to follow, as it flashed back and forth between multiple times and characters, but after that, it was a whirl of excitement. The ending completely messed with me. It took a complete 180 and through me for a loop. And then to top it all off, the book ends on a cliff-hanger! How am I suppose to handle this!? Without a doubt, this has been one of the best (and longest) books I have read in 2017. If this book is not already on your anticipated reads for the month of July, it defiantly should be. I cannot wait for the next book to come out!
Date published: 2017-09-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great I loved this book. I like the writing style and all of the characters.
Date published: 2017-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! I really enjoyed this book, it took a little bit to get into it but once i was in, i was hooked. I love the 1920's, magic and magicians and this was everything! The magic system in this world was fascinating, everyone has a different power such a time travel, reading minds, knowing the future etc.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fantastic Story and Interesting Characters With excellent world building often comes an excellent story and The Last Magician is no exception. Fast paced right up until the last page, this is an excellent book and I can't wait for the next installment in the series!
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You NEED to read! The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell, was an extraordinary read, had a well-written storyline, as well as clever characters to go along with it. The story felt unique, the heist was grand, and the characters always left you questioning. Overall the story and setting were extraordinary and Maxwell did a brilliant job at crafting this tale. The characters were one of my favourite things about this read. Each had a purpose and each defined the book in its own way. I loved learning about each of the characters affinities, sometimes there were things given away, other times it was hard to figure it out. I connected strongly to the characters, more so then I did the storyline. It strongly held me interested throughout the entirety of this read. Another aspect that I really enjoyed about this read was the setting and vibes I got from it. We as readers are tossed between modern day New York and 1900 New York, and that outlining idea was very important to the story. The story centred around the idea that Mageus in this world were the slum in the city and the non magical folks were the rich. This in turn made for gangs and gangsters to appear. The magic and gangsters went had in had with this setting, and it made it an unforgettable aspect to the story.
Date published: 2017-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Magic and Time Travel and Vintage Manhattan, Oh My! 4.5 stars Packed with history and magic, THE LAST MAGICIAN is a feat of wonder. Maxwell was clearly invested in creating a world so rich, I occasionally questioned whether or not I, too, was living in 1901 Manhattan. At first, I was a bit intimidated by the length, but in the end, I'm grateful I was able to spend so long with these characters. That said, it didn't feel long at all. Not in the slightest. I loved Esta, and the other characters were very strong as well. Bordering on trope-y, but original enough to not be predictable. And talking about predictable, the final five chapters are anything but. I couldn't read quickly enough and I'll be anxiously awaiting the release of the second book, because I NEED to know what happens next.
Date published: 2017-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Enthralling Electrifying and all-consuming, I can tell you now The Last Magician will have a spot in my list of top ten books I read this year. The story is phenomenal with incredible characters and spellbinding twists. I loved every second. I really enjoyed the writing in this one. The Last Magician is a big book but it didn't feel that way when I was reading it. I love the originality of the story. It's one big game of uncertainties and a daring race against time. There's layers upon layers of complexity. The careful set ups, risky gambles and boiling tension all led to some shocking revelations. Ms. Maxwell takes the time to saturate the atmosphere with lies, distrust, manipulation and deception. It was impossible for me to discern who was worth trusting. I loved it. Secrets and truths came spilling out as the story reached its climax. There was so much to take in but I enjoyed every bit. The illusions were beautifully done. They kept me on the tip of my toes. What was real and what was not? Who or what should I be wary of? My mind was working overtime to fit the puzzle pieces together. It was satisfying to see my suspicions confirmed but even more exhilarating to learn that my predictions were wrong. Such cleverness in bringing individual components together to form a new angle. The characters were darn amazing. They snuck into my heart and stole all my feelings. I was rooting for and hating each one at the same time. Esta had my support from the very beginning. Despite her unknown past she's got a great mindset. She's audacious but her intentions were always clear and pure. I rooted for her success. A huge cast of characters all played a key role in The Last Magician. Harte, Dolph, Nibsy, Viola, Jianyu and Jack were essential to the slow unraveling of the story. Each proved to be interesting in their motives and entertaining in their abilities. It's always the quiet unassuming ones you have to watch out for. I particularly loved Harte Darrigan. A seemingly nobody that just wanted a life of his own but could somehow never catch a break. The moments he shared with Esta were pulse-pounding and my favourite. Even though there's been no indication of a next book, I can tell The Last Magician is only the beginning. I've got all my fingers and toes crossed for a sequel! I NEED more of this unique and hypnotizing world.
Date published: 2017-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Epic Tale of Time Travel & Adventure The Last Magician is a fascinating YA novel about a girl named Esta who must travel back to the 1900s to steal a mysterious book, the Ars Arcana, that could save the future. Esta is Mageus, one who has an affinity for magic. Her ability is to warp time. In her world, Mageus are feared and misunderstood, especially by the Order of Ortus Aurea, who wish to harness and control their power. The Order uses artificial and corrupt ceremonial magic to create the Brink, an invisible boundary that keeps Mageus from leaving New York City with their magic. However, the Brink not only destroys the affinity, but the person as well, leaving nothing left of who they had once been. Arriving in the past, Esta meets Harte Darrigan accidentally and sparks fly – even more so as he is the very magician she was sent to stop from destroying the Book! She joins Dolph Saunders’ team in a rush to prevent this from happening, but must keep the truth about herself and where she is from, a secret. Lisa Maxwell’s historic city is filled with intrigue and danger lurks around every corner. The story is bursting with lavish descriptions of an alternative New York. Maxwell employs lush and vivid detail and I became instantly immersed in the realm she created. The depiction of smells, lights and sounds is filmic in quality and visually appealing – from the ornate splendour of the buildings owned by members of The Order to the dark, shadowy back streets. As sumptuous as the settings are, the characters are the heart of the story. The conflicts and attractions between these personalities are all underscored with an intensity that makes them seem all the more believable. Esta is plucky and strong. She is willing to risk everything she can to save those she cares for. Her relationships with so many of the characters, both in the past and her present are touching and real. Traveling back in time is made all the more dangerous because of the potentially disastrous changes she can make to history as well as to the very existence of some of the people she holds dear. When Esta manipulates time and travels through it, the author paints interesting changes between the different time periods in the same locale. Esta was able to see the stars in the past, when she couldn’t in her own time while standing in an identical place. I enjoyed reading the background about Mageus and their magical attributes and strengths. Magic is their very existence, it is warm and alive. By contrast, the Brink and the alchemy utilized by The Order, is cold and desolate. Maxwell frighteningly describes the destruction it wreaks on those who come into contact with it. It is terrifying in what it can do and it shows the lengths The Order will go to remove the affinities of Mageus, in spite of the repercussions. The book had me questioning destiny and how much changing the past can affect the future. Fearing what you don’t understand and the unknown were also important themes represented. The Last Magician is an epic tale of time travel, adventure and a sprinkling of romance, with lots of twists along the way. It’s beautifully written with a thought-provoking story and likable characters who are not only fascinating, but inspiring. There is plenty of action and suspense, which kept me thoroughly entertained and rapidly turning the pages.
Date published: 2017-07-13

Read from the Book

The Last Magician THE THIEF 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. “Esta?” 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.

Editorial Reviews

The age-old battle between the Order of Ortus Aurea, who think magic can be created, and the Mageus, whose magic is innate, is intensifying; and each side is trying to collect magical tools to gain control—including the powerful text known as the Ars Arcana. Esta (Mageus), trained as a time-traveling thief, is sent back to early twentieth-century New York to prevent the book’s destruction at the hands of a mysterious person known only as the Magician. This stripped down plot summary does no justice to the captivating and complicated story created by Maxwell. A mix of historical fiction, romance, fantasy, and magic, the well-plotted and tightly paced story moves between present day and 1901 New York, a time of gangs, tenements, turf wars, and a fascination with science and technology as a cure for society’s ills. A few historical figures make an appearance, J. P. Morgan, for example, but this is definitely Esta’s story, and she is a smart and feisty female protagonist in whom readers will delight. — Cindy Welch