Last Days of Magic is a fantastic epic of that acts like a factual telling of how magic left the world. (Personally, I’d like to believe it to be true. you may say I’m a dreamer...) It tells the story of the Sidhe, who are the magical beings descended from Nephilim, and their interaction with all sorts of people, especially the Celts, before being mostly driven from our world into the other plane.
We begin with the Prologue in present day, with a woman named Sara whose grandmother left in her possession copies of a forbidden part of the Bible that speaks of the Sidhe. We know she is in danger, but don’t get a lot of face time with her before – wham! – we are in Ireland in the late 1300s. And the time jumps continue from there.
The meat of the story shows twins Aisling and Anya, given the burden of being the earthly incarnations of the Goddess Morrigna, who rules both the Sidhe and the Celts through the twins. Of course, tragedy strikes and Aisling is left alone, not quite a whole goddess but still expected to uphold the law of the land. There are some who feel she is fit, and some who want her killed, but all expect something big from a girl not yet fourteen.
Across the pond you have the Vatican making dastardly plots with the English mad king Richard to finally take over Ireland once and for all, meaning more land for England and more ardor, or magic, in Vatican hands. Their trained exorcists are the only people allowed to practice magic, Ireland is chock full of people (and non-people) who don’t bft that bill. There are plots woven into plots, allies betraying another, and you are never quite sure who to trust.
So therein lies the epic. However, like all epics, there are pros and cons to the form.
-> Mark Thompkins wrote a beautiful book filled with Irish folklore, Bible lore, and documented history that are so well interwoven, it makes you believe that this is all true. The myths and legends fit well with the historical narrative of how Ireland was conquered by the British, and provides a decent explanation for some of the alliances that occurred to make it happen. If you are either a history buff or a folklorist, the other half fills in the gap nicely. It’s just hard for the people with no context at all.
-> Peripherally related to the first, Last Days of Magic creates such a full picture from start to finish that so many epics don’t succeed in doing. You are left feeling that you have completed your journey.
-> Unfortunately, the time jumps are just annoying instead of innovative or edgy. They seem almost arbitrary in the grander scheme of things.
-> Too many characters that weren’t fully fleshed out. While very well-written, you can only have so many characters before some get pushed to the wayside. Some of the characters were practically hyperbolic in the way they were stereotypes, while others who should have been multi-faceted ended up being the characters you least like. Also, if you don’t handle death well, this will not be the book for you. I was forewarned, but characters die at an alarming rate, and many of the deaths are so anti-climactic you wonder why the character was there in the first place.
-> Geographically confusing. I wish there was a map of “old Ireland” to consult, because the characters basically act like they are taking a walk in the park when they are travelling from one side of the country to the next.
All in all, I wanted to be in love-obsessed-enthralled by this novel, but instead was left feeling intrigued and a little apathetic. Instead of feeling stricken (in a good way) when my favorite characters died, I felt let down. Instead of being in awe of the majesty of Ireland and its history/legends, I felt confused. After a book like this, I want to feel hollow, like the novel took a chunk of my being and ate it whole for breakfast. This was a well-written story, but not epic.
There were one or two moments and characters that shone like a diamond in the rough (see: Jordan), they weren’t abundant. I would still recommend this book for the lovers of lore and hardcore historians, but for the epic fantasy fangirl (or guy), I might say leave it untouched. Three waves out of five!