“The Last Days of Magic” by Mark Tompkins

The Last Days of Magic2I requested an ARC copy of this novel earlier this year because the premise sounded interesting. It seemed to be a mixture of religion and fantasy with some political intrigue thrown in and it was. The story is interesting with lots of facts throughout that history buffs might love.

Quick summary:

From Goodreads:

An epic novel of magic and mysticism, Celts and faeries, mad kings and druids, and the goddess struggling to reign over magic’s last outpost on the Earth

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:

Though I liked the story, I did not like how it was told and so I didn’t finish it. However, I read enough to be able to write this review. It’s not a bad story and it’s not poorly written. I’m just not a fan of its storytelling. Other reviews I’ve read express thorough enjoyment of the story and I can see why that is so.

The world building is strong and I like how Tompkins mixes myth with historical facts and religious references to create an alternate version of our history that can be easily believed. It was not what I expected, but it was intriguing. In Tompkins’s story, there was once magic in the world and fey creatures. How did these creatures come about? Here he mixes in biblical references concerning angels’ fall from heaven and coupling with humans. Tompkins also touches on facts known in history concerning the Catholic church and their immense influence on politics in Europe. Along with these historical facts, well-known people in history are either included as a character in the story or mentioned in passing by characters. For example, Chauncer is a character in the story. He plays himself.

Speaking of characters, I was hooked on Jordan. He was a mystery to me. I really wanted to know more about his background and find out who exactly he is. That’s one of the many reasons why I wish I kept reading. Aisling is another great character I liked. Actually, I liked the majority of the women featured in the story. They are all strong-willed and do what they can to achieve their goals. Overall, I really liked this story.

What turned me off about the storytelling is the infodumping. I believe the story is weighed down by all the facts that are included. The facts are interesting and are necessary to understand the story as well as the period it’s set in, but it doesn’t flow smoothly with the story. Those factual sections jarred me out of the story’s lull and I would feel as if I was reading a history book; but when it switched back to the story’s narration, I would once again lose myself in the events and characters.

The amount of facts included shows how much research went into creating this story and I appreciated that. While reading, I kept wondering which parts are true and which are from Tompkins’s imagination, just an explanation for how people lived during the time the story is set.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

It’s a good story and I recommend it. Yea, I know: I didn’t complete it but I recommend it. That’s just weird of me. But if you are interested in mythology, have an open mind about how religion is used in fiction, and like a good story, then I recommend it. But, if you can’t stand to be pulled out of a story because of how the story is told, then I don’t recommend it. I’m pretty sure history buffs and those really into fantasy and mythology would enjoy it, though. It is my sort of story so I might return to it again later and try to complete it.

Quote from the book:

“Whoever controls literacy controls history, and the future.”

Other thoughts on the novel:

5 thoughts on ““The Last Days of Magic” by Mark Tompkins

    1. That’s what a couple other readers said but it stopped me. Hopefully I’ll be able to complete it later, though, because I really want to know what happens. I still have hopes about the Morrigan* despite things.

      **Probably spelled that wrong.**


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