Author: Mark Tompkins
No. of Pages: 400
Origins: Viking Books
Release Date: 1 March 2016
“What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.
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.
The Last Days of Magic introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.”
My Thoughts: With THE LAST DAYS OF MAGIC, Mark Tompkins attempts to forge a bridge between history and fantasy by utilizing real historical figures and actual events in Church and English history as well as popular myths and legends. There is much that Mr. Tompkins must explain in order for the story to make sense to the reader who is not familiar with either. This means there is a lot of descriptive narrative that can get a bit tedious at times – a necessary evil when the story is so broad in scope and covers everything from Church history to Irish folklore and beyond.
In addition to this large chunk of world-building required for understanding the novel, there is a multitude of characters throughout the story. Keeping track of them all can be a chore, as their appearances tend to be brief and without much in the way of development. Between the wide cast of characters, the foreign names, and the unfamiliar historical events and figures, it can prove to be a bit more than a reader is willing to suffer for the sake of a story.
All that aside, the story itself is quite thrilling, as you just do not know how it is all going to end. It also has a bit of everything: political intrigue, action, adventure, spying, romance, revenge, tragedy. You are immediately drawn into the plight of the magical beings given the aggressive nature of the humans. It is an interesting portrayal as typically it is the faeries who are the dangerous beings in fantasy.
THE LAST DAYS OF MAGIC is an ambitious novel. It seeks to cover a lot of information about a wide variety of subjects and a large cast of characters in a relatively short period of time. In fact, the structure is there for this to be a stellar novel. And yet…and yet…
While the structure is there, THE LAST DAYS OF MAGIC falls a bit short of its potential. For a novel that is this wide in scope, encompassing almost all of Europe, one expects more – more character development, more backstory, more anticipation, more action, more everything. I want to know more about Liam and his parentage. I want to know more about Jonathan and his parentage. Some of the crucial scenes are anticlimactic, with key characters’ deaths occurring off the page without any fanfare. There really is no final battle either, which seems odd when the entire story builds up to this clash between the Church and magical beings. In addition, the inclusion of modern-day Sara Hill in the prologue and epilogue is just plain odd. I can only hope Mr. Tompkins intends for this to be a series, and that a sequel includes more of Sara.
It hurts me to write these things because I want to love THE LAST DAYS OF MAGIC. Mr. Tompkins wrote to me to say how excited and anxious he was to see his novel finally grace bookstore shelves; he seems a lovely man and I hate to disappoint him or temper his excitement. Even before he wrote me however, I wanted to love this book that involves everything I adore about reading fiction – magic, faeries, history, powerful women/goddesses, intrigue, epic battles, blurred definitions of good and evil. The cover is gorgeous, and the premise has such great appeal. The potential is there, and that is what is so frustrating. It just needs a bit more substance in order to fulfill that potential.
In spite of all of its flaws, I did enjoy reading THE LAST DAYS OF MAGIC. I found it to be quite the page-turner because the one thing it does not lack is suspense. In addition, I never could guess in which direction the story would progress. There are no big twists or red herrings, but it is such an intricate story that it leaves you unable to guess at future outcomes. I was able to mostly overlook the deficiencies in light of the intensity of the story as well as the unpredictability of it. While I cannot gush over it as much as I would like, I can still say THE LAST DAYS OF MAGIC is a decent read and one I do not regret reading.