If you’re like me, you fell in love with Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician the first time you read it. I devoured the fantastical magic, the old-timey New York City, the rival gangs, the heist crew, and the Magician himself (*heart-eyes*).
There’s a short recap at the end if you need it! And here is your recap of The Devil’s Thief once you’ve finished this one.
The Ultimate Recap of The Last Magician
1902: The Magician stands on the Brooklyn Bridge, ready to jump.
1926: Esta is at a party at Charles Schwab’s mansion. She’s running late but she manages to crack Schwab’s safe and extract a dagger, set with a mythical stone. She’s been tasked by her father-figure Professor Lachlan to steal the stone before it is given to the Order of Ortus Aurea, whose whole deal is that they use corrupt ceremonial magic while suppressing the Mageus, who are born with real magic.
Because of her delay, her partner Logan is shot as they try to escape, and Order members Charles and his nephew Jack, see Esta use her magic to disappear. Esta is a Mageus and her magic is that she can travel through time!
1902: Dolph Saunders waits outside J.P. Morgan’s mansion. His partner Leena had gone undercover there and hasn’t come back. The Order is definitely to blame. His crew-member Nibsy arrives with one last message from Leena and they follow a carriage carrying her to the Brink, the magical line that traps Mageus in Manhattan. They can’t save her- she falls into the Brink. Dolph uses all his strength to grab her, but she’s gone, and he and his magic are damaged.
Dolph is devastated. He devotes all his energy to Leena’s message that says “libero Libra.” It has to be about The Book of Mysteries, aka the Ars Arcana! The Order must have it, and Dolph is determined to get it before they can use it to destroy all Mageus.
“Liars do make the best magicians, and he happened to be exceptional.”
1902: We meet stage magician Harte Darrigan (heeeeey). He’s reluctantly meeting Dolph, who offers him a way out of the city (impossible!). He needs Harte’s help to get the Book, as Harte has befriended Jack Grew (remember him from 1926?), whose uncle is an important member of the Order. Harte has spent the last few years trying to get out of the gangs of downtown and make a name for himself, so he’s not interested (lol no he’s totally interested but doesn’t want to be).
Present Day: When Esta and Logan get back, they find they’ve changed the future. The Order has figured out that Esta has been stealing powerful stones through time. The Professor tells Esta she’s going to 1902 to join and double-cross a group of Mageus to steal the Book before it disappears. To do this, she must find the Magician and stop him.
As Esta pulls time around her heading to 1902, she see that her friend Dakari has been shot! She wants to go back, but the stone that helps her time travel has disintegrated. She’s trapped in 1902 and the only way to get home is to get the stone as it exists in 1902 and to do that, she’s got to join the heist.
1902: Harte is meeting Jack for drinks when he feels magic. No one is dumb enough to use magic at the Haymarket, except a girl picking an old man’s pocket (it’s Esta of course!). Harte tries to subtly save her from notice and in doing so, kisses her. Smooth, Harte. She bites him, but in her escape, she’s trapped by a lecherous man, kicks him repeatedly in the face, and is taken captive. But Esta convinces her captor she’s useful, and is sent to Dolph.
Harte meets with Jack but it doesn’t go well when his snooty friends show up. Jack sulks off and we find out he’s building some sort of machine to impress the Order. It’s definitely going to be trouble.
Dolph isn’t impressed by Esta, but after she steals items from everyone on his crew (my loves Viola & Jianyu included), he agrees she might be useful. Nibs takes her to one of Harte’s shows. He has a feeling she might convince Harte to join their scheme. Esta is pulled on stage for the act – Harte’s show pretends his magic isn’t real – and lots of witty banter happens between my OTP. Harte still isn’t convinced but I sure am.
“The only way to go was forward, as always.”
Esta gets herself on Dolph’s Mageus team stealing items from the Order at an exhibit event. The heist goes sideways but Esta saves the day and more witty banter (swoon) happens between her and Harte, who is there cozying up to Jack.
Dolph now entrusts Esta with getting Harte on board with his scheme. Harte & Esta (Hesta? Daresta?) share another hate-kiss backstage at one of Harte’s shows. But! Harte was using his affinity for seeing into people’s mind during the kiss! He is confused by the modern images in Esta’s mind. Harte is *shaken* in more than one way.
Meanwhile, Jack has started up his machine and it creates a mini Brink. One of Dolph’s, Tilly, gets zapped and everyone is devastated when she passes away. Dolph is more determined than ever to get Harte on his team, and on Nib’s suggestion, gets Paul Kelly, another gang boss downtown, to put some pressure on him. We learn that Harte’s weakness is his mother, an addict.
Always the schemer, Dolph sends Esta to live with Harte and WOW am I living for the romantic tension as they share a tiny apartment. Harte and Esta agree to work together to con Jack using the lost heir scheme. Esta pretends to be the long-lost daughter of Baron Franz von Filosik, an alchemist Jack would love to learn the secrets of. They prepare for their big performance and wow Jack with their stage magic.
“You can trust me…at least until the very end.”
After their show, Esta and Harte charm Jack back at the Haymarket but Esta gets distracted, and when the dance hall is raided, she’s taken into police custody. Jack takes Harte to see his machine, and Harte realizes just how vital it is to stop him and the Order. He’s not on-board with giving the Book to Dolph, but knows they need to take it from the Order.
Learning Esta is gone, Harte goes to Dolph’s but Nibs intercepts him and reveals his nefarious affinity for always being several steps ahead of everyone else. Nibs threatens Harte and get punched. It’s very satisfying.
Harte rushes off to save Esta, but she’s totally already saved herself! They share a tender moment, both inwardly torn that they’re planning on betraying each other. AHH!
Esta convinces Jack that she and Harte should be the entertainment at the upcoming Order shindig at their HQ Khafre Hall, and the heist planning begins.
It’s heist time. Harte changes their stage act at the last minute and Esta is trapped on stage as he and Viola raid the secret chamber for the Book and the stones. Harte betrays them all and disappears with the goods.
While all this is happening, Dolph gets shot while visiting Leena’s grave. He deserved better!!
Everything is in chaos. Nibsy takes over for Dolph and gets a note that from Harte promising the Book in exchange for Esta. This is Esta’s final chance to get the Book, and her time travel stone, back so she can return home.
“She had to make sure the past remained just as it should have been, or else who knew what her future might hold.”
All our players gather on the Brooklyn Bridge. Esta pulls time around her so she and Harte can talk in private. Harte has sent the stones out of the city to keep them out of Nib’s hands (he killed Dolph!!). Harte gives Esta the Book and her travel stone so she can escape and plans to take himself – as he now contains the Book’s power! – out so the Order can’t get their hands on him. Time resumes and the two share one final kiss. Harte jumps. Esta time jumps home.
“He hadn’t betrayed her in the end. He’d given her exactly what she needed.”
Present Day: Esta rushes back to save Dakari, but he’s okay! They return to the Professor who is eager to get his hands on the Book. But Esta isn’t so sure they should use the Book to destroy the Brink as the Professor intends. Harte shared that the Brink is there to protect the Mageus just as much as it contains them. Destroying the Brink might destroy magic altogether.
The Professor isn’t happy with Esta’s questions. He admits he had Dakari shot as incentive for Esta to return. In his evil soliloquy, he slips and Esta realizes that the Professor IS NIBS!! He wants the power of the Book to control the world! ALSO turns out Esta is Dolph and Leena’s secret child and Nibs has orchestrated everything, grooming Esta from when she was a child for his evil intents.
Professor/Nibs threatens to kill everyone Esta loves unless she take the Book back to his younger self. He sends Logan the guard her, and they travel back to 1902. Esta feels like she’s going home and I feel like sobbing.
1902: Esta knocks out Logan and rushes to the Brooklyn Bridge to save Harte. He’s alive! Jianyu helped him fake his death. Esta is elated and also very mad at Harte. He lied to her again! But he did it to protect her! These two!
They’re not safe yet. Esta knows if they let things be, the stones can still be gathered by the Professor and he can do his evil. They need to get them first. Esta thinks they can trick the Brink using the Book and get out of the city. They have a plan!
Esta time travels back to 1902 NYC to foil the Magician and steal the Book, as directed by the Professor. She joins Dolph’s crew and works to convince Harte, the Magician, to join the heist team to steal the Book from the Order, before Jack, an aspiring Order member, blows up all the Mageus in the city. After much banter and kisses-with-ulterior-motives, Esta and Harte team up, then betray each other, then un-betray each other. Esta takes the Book back to present day NYC but! the Professor is Nibs, a shady character from 1902 who wants the Book to takeover the world. Esta escapes and returns to 1902 and she and Harte make plans to save magic and the world.