Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been on a real non-fiction bender this year and it’s been great. But every once in a while you need something completely fantastical to take you outside of the real world.
It takes a lot for me to get excited about a book that could be termed ‘fantasy’ but The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins is one of those books.
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.
This book is full of magic and tells an alternate tale of how the world became what it is today.Tompkins ably weaves a tale of mysticism and enchantment that has echoes of the history that we’re been taught of the Catholic Church’s establishment in Ireland. There are rebels, and warring factions, Druids, witches and trolls, all fighting for their way of life in the face of this monster power, the Roman Church.
Chaucer makes an appearance, as do Richard II, Saints Patrick and Brigid,and various Popes and bishops. It’s this weaving of fact and legend that makes The Last Days of Magic such a compelling read. There’s an element of “is this what really happened?” that is so much fun.
This is another book that ruminates on the power of the written word, of the ability of those who can read to change the world and how those that have all the power, want to control that ability. It is a David and Goliath story, of the Roman Church trying to trample all over other nations in an attempt to gain all the power and the riches for themselves.
I especially loved that it’s women in this world that have the power. The Goddess Morrigna, rules over the Celts and the Sidhe (Irish faeries) and manifests in times of trouble via her dual aspects, Aisling and Anya. Aisling, in particular, a fierce warrior goddess who is totally kickass. The coven of witches in France, who rule the royal family with their spells and potions, and have an eye on doing the same in England. Najia, a witch sold into slavery from Damascus, partners with a condottieri and ensures his safety and success. And Brigid, the highest ranking Druid, Celtic pagan magic workers, who fights for the Morrigna in any way she can, and today is venerated as a saint.
I’m hoping that this is the first book in a planned series. I have more questions and especially want to see more time dedicated to the devious witches in France. I also think that this would be an epic mini-series and seriously hope that someone is working on making that happen.
Fans of Game of Thrones, Vikings (the tv show), and The Last Kingdom will love The Last Days of Magic.