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The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins

The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins
Pub. Date: March 1, 2016
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Viking!)
Summary: Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.

As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.
Genre: Historical Fantasy, Magic, Mythology/Folklore

First thing’s first: that image of the cover does not do it justice. In person, this book is downright gorgeous with gold sparkles that catch your eye. Seriously, this book needs to be seen in person.

The Last Days of Magic tells the story of Aisling and Anya, twins who are foretold at birth to be goddesses. When they come of age, Aisling will stay in Ireland to rule while Anya will journey to the Middle Kingdom, the realm of the faries. Tragedy strikes, however, and suddenly Aisling’s future is called into question. Meanwhile, the Vatican is determined to drive out magic from the world and England’s King Richard II sets his own plots into motion.

The world of this book is absolutely breathtaking. Built on the legends of ancient Celts, The Last Days of Magic is truly an enchanting read. Faeries, nephilim, gnomes, the Sidhe, this is what fantasy is all about and Tompkins crafted his version of Ireland beautifully. He’s also not afraid to explore religion, using the Dead Sea Scrolls to great effect and even discussing Lilith, Adam’s wife before Eve.

In an interview, Tompkins mentioned his research when writing this book was “overly extensive” and, unfortunately, that’s not exactly a plus. When this book was good it was phenomenal and the pages became a blur I was reading so quickly. But then there were chapters I couldn’t help but skim. Not because they weren’t written well – which they very much were! – but because they were so bogged down with dry, dense historical detail that felt more at home in a scholarly text than a fantasy novel. A book this size shouldn’t have taken me more than a day to read, two at most. Instead, I spent roughly four days with this one mainly due to the slow-going nature.

Another issue I had was that I had assumed it would be a dual-era novel, one story in the present and one in the past. The beginning of the book certainly made it out to be the case with the opening chapter taking place in 2016. The next jumped back to the 14th century and I spent the next few chapters waiting for the return to the present day…only it never came until the epilogue. Although I enjoyed the story, I would have loved to have seen more of the present day plot.

The Last Days of Magic is a fantastic debut, though it’s not without its faults. Dense historical detail made this one a challenge to read quickly, but it had some truly incredible moments. Anyone who loves mythology and folklore is sure to feel right at home within these pages – and there’s a map of Middle Kingdom! Tompkins also included a list at the end of the book detailing what became of the historical figures in the novel: Chaucer, Gutenberg, Joan of Arc, and several others, which was a fun added bonus!

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