This is a meaty book. And I’ve read meaty books before where the author writes a brick of a book and more often than not tries to make it meatier with nonsensical plots and information, but I feel like every single word and page in this monster of a book mattered even if you don’t think it does. Just like Esta’s affinity, we as readers need to look at all the lines of plot and find the connections in the space between. I think if you’re not prepared for how much information you’re going to get here, and not ready to follow even more plot lines this time around, you might be disappointed with the book. But in my opinion, I felt like Maxwell really did a good job of making this book the good kind of filler book that sets everything up for what I can only assume will be an explosive conclusion.
The thing that really set this apart from other filler books, in my opinion, was how, as I mentioned, every chapter and plot line you encounter in this second book matters. Obviously our main plot still revolves around Esta and Harte and their mission to track down the various stones he sent across the continent, but there are people that they meet and encounter that may or may not directly affect their plans and we need to understand these new characters’ plans and motives and try to predict how Esta and Harte fall into those plans. But there’s also the back plot with Nibsy, Jiaynu, and Viola, who are all trying to recover from the heist and what happened to Dolph and figure out their next steps, and Jack’s storyline interwoven with everyone else’s because he still represents the antagonist narrative and shows what the Order intends to do following the heist and what their next plans are. What I love most about this series and Maxwell’s structure is that she lets the reader see everything that’s going on in this world and by giving you all the information, you can really form an opinion on the story and not feel like you’re missing something. You see what happens in Esta’s plot, in Jack’s plot, in Jianyu and Viola’s plot, and even Nibsy’s plot. She gives you all the information you need to understand not just what’s going on but what’s at stake. True, a lot of times when authors do this, they tend to get carried away and write about more characters than necessary, but I feel like Maxwell touched on the right characters and gave you just enough to understand who they are and their part in the big picture. I personally never felt like any POV didn’t matter, or any information I learned was irrelevant, and therefore I felt like this was the good kind of filler book full of all the meat you could ask for.
It’s not news that I hate time travel and it’s usually because people tend to think that they can “beat the system” and ignore the rules of time travel (yes there are rules) and overall don’t quite understand how to use it as a plot device. But to me, I think that they way Maxwell used it to create chaos and unpredictability was a really smart way to go. It’s really simple to use time travel as the main plot, to have Esta merely fight her way back to the past to fix whatever new future she might’ve created with her mistakes, but instead we see her and Harte working in their new present to accomplish their mission and having them fight with or against whatever ripples the time travel might have created for them. I like how Esta understands her affinity and time travel and knows she can’t just change the timelines all willy-nilly (I’m talking to you, Barry Allen) but works with it. And because she and Harte don’t know what their travel has caused, neither does the reader, and there’s a strong level of unpredictability throughout the rest of the story. Some people might really hate this but I prefer this way of utilizing the time travel plot device, mainly because Maxwell did it in a way that didn’t stress me out.
If I thought there was angst in the first book, it had absolutely nothing on this one. Not only was the angst between Esta and Harte increased tenfold, with the addition of the Book’s power being within Harte and how Harte wanted Esta so badly but couldn’t do anything about it due to the power inside him wanting her just as badly, but there were new “relationships” to provide angst for. I loved the addition of Cela’s character and her plot line with Jianyu, hoping to see more of their dynamic in the future, but there was the addition of Ruby’s character and the angst that developed with her and Viola. All of these dynamics have a “forbidden” feel to them for various reasons and it makes the reader want to see them develop even more and while romance is absolutely not at the forefront for this series, Maxwell did a damn good job of making the reader want it more and more with each passing page.
I’m a bit iffy on the added twist with Thoth and Seshat and how that’s all going to play out, since it’s the one plot line I’ve yet to grasp, but I think I can see what Maxwell wants to do with it and am intrigued to see what her plans are. I will also say the other big thing I didn’t love about this book was the lack of communication with majority of the characters because, as always, things would be a lot simpler if they would just talk to one another. But on the other hand, it’s yet another damn good plot device to get a reader to keep going, to see if one will betray another or see what kind of mess will be the outcome of it all. It brings anger, for sure, but it also brings interest and anticipation which is relatively fine by me in this kind of story.
I really feel like this book was the perfect filler book, not just because it laid out all the information the reader requires to see and understand what’s happening, or going to happen, but it sets up the perfect questions that the third book should answer. I have no idea what those last two chapters mean but with the mix of confusion and stress that I’m feeling, all I know is that I need the third book to give me those answers. I don’t know what anyone is up to anymore or what anything means, but I feel like that was the point of this book. Sure, I know everything that I need to, but I have so many unanswered questions that’ll push me towards the third book.
Even if this was a filler book where “nothing happened,” and I should probably give it 3.5 stars, I still personally feel like so much happened that I need to give it 4 stars again. Also, the amount of historical accuracy and the point Maxwell wanted to prove with certain plot lines is enough to garner 4 stars. We all know that’s the true way to my heart.
Goddamn, what a good series.
In this spellbinding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Last Magician, Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country chase through time to steal back the elemental stones they need to save the future of magic.
Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.
Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.
Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.
To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.
In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.
As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief.