The second book in The Last Magician series picks up right after the cliffhanger conclusion of the first volume.
Time-traveling Esta and presumed-dead Harte, both Mageus, are on the run beyond the Brink in search of powerful magical artifacts in the primary storyline, which time-skips from 1902 to 1904. Back in New York, still in 1902, Viola and Jianyu, along with Cela, have their own secondary adventures; the three characters, respectively a white lesbian, a Chinese immigrant, and an African-American, also serve to illustrate some of Maxwell’s (The Last Magician, 2017, etc.) thoughtful push back on racism, sexism, and xenophobia, even if they are somewhat centrally cast (especially Jianyu). Both narratives contain action and plenty of baddie Jack Grew (J.P. Morgan’s fictional nephew, representative of toxic white male power), and magic continues to serve as an allegory; Esta and Harte’s adventures in St. Louis at the (carefully researched) Exposition bring them into contact with magic activists–cum-terrorists, which furthers the ways Maxwell examines power and morality. Sadly, multiple perspectives and frequent jumps between two timelines, sometimes with single-page chapters, rob the narrative of flow and tension, making this doorstopper drag.
In the end, this classic midseries entry seems mostly designed to set up the next volume, but fans probably won’t mind. (map, author’s note, further reading) (Historical fantasy. 12-adult)