Gangs, immigrants, and the rich keeping the poor down, with a twist.
In an alternate New York, magic is wielded by the Mageus, whose innate affinities vary widely, and the Order, who disdain but use magic in rituals that limit the Mageus’ freedom. For centuries, Mageus have entered but cannot leave Manhattan thanks to the Brink, a magical barrier surrounding the island. Esta’s affinity involves manipulating time, and the professor who raised her has sent her from the present day to 1901 to stop the destruction of a book that could potentially destroy the Brink. Shifting third-person perspective follows Esta into the past as she infiltrates Dolph Saunders’ gang and becomes involved with Harte Darrigan, the handsome magician who destroyed the book. Crisp pacing and plenty of details tell the story of engaging, if selfish, characters in their late teens and early 20s working at cross purposes for big reasons. The past is slightly romanticized but largely realistic: the Mageus function as a stand-in for any immigrant group subject to prejudice, and Esta’s contemporary attitudes shine a light on outdated attitudes, while through the experiences of Chinese Jianyu (the only nonwhite member of Dolph’s gang), some of the racial prejudices of the past are confronted.
A doorstopper with a total shakeup of an ending: don’t miss this splendid series opener. (map) (Historical fantasy. 12-adult)