Completely Enchanted: The Last Days of Magic

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.

From Goodreads:

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.


When It Takes Forever To Read a Book: The Golem and the Jinni

I’m a fast reader. I’m not sure if I’ve become a faster reader the more I read, or if I’ve always been a fast-ish reader. But lately I’m burning through 2 or 3 books a week.

You’d never know that to look at my rate of (not) posting on here!

The result of my speed reading is that I get frustrated when I don’t feel like I’m getting through a book as quickly as I feel I should.

I know, totally in my head. I’m competing with myself and I’m the only one that suffers.

It has taken me days to get through The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. And it frustrated me to the point that I wasn’t sure if it was the book that wasn’t grabbing me, or if I was my own obstacle to enjoying this book!

The Golem and the Jinni was first brought to my attention by my Chapters lady. She had just finished reading (an advanced copy because that’s how she rolls) it and had been completely swept away by the magic. I was immediately put off because it sniffed a little too strongly of fantasy for my liking. I didn’t get it that day but every time I saw it after, I thought about getting it. It wasn’t until it was sitting on the shelf at the library that I gave in to the impulse.


It’s the end of the 19th century in New York City and a brand-new, masterless Golem walks from the ocean into the city. Lucky for her an old Rabbi recognizes her for what she is and protects her or there would have been no story. The Golem must learn to control her impulses to survive – she could easily kill any man if she felt threatened. At the same time, a tinsmith releases a Jinni from his prison in an oil lamp (yes, like the Genie in Aladdin). The Jinni is frustrated that he is trapped in human form, bound to a wizard a thousand years ago without any idea of how to undo the connection.

The Golem and the Jinni bump into each other by chance and embark on an unlikely friendship; neither requires sleep and spend one night a week in each other’s company discovering the city and discussing their frustrations in this new life. But when the Golem’s protector dies and her maker finds his way to New York City, all hell breaks loose and their friendship and existence are threatened.

This isn’t the kind of book that you can casually check in on from time to time. It needs dedicated reading time, for long stretches. It’s good but can also feel overly earnest. I found that I was waiting for the different threads to come together and when they started to, I was excited and felt myself running along with the story, racing towards a conclusion. But when it all came together and the story was told I wasn’t completely satisfied. I found that there were some threads, some characters, that while accounted for and wrapped up, didn’t seem like they were necessary to complete the story. I was also more than OK with the story being about friendship and I’m not sure that the ending was a friendship ending or a romantic ending.

I did love exploring the different stories and folklore surrounding both figures. It allowed for an entirely new way of exploring Judaism and the Arabic world that was both refreshing and extremely interesting.

I’m glad I finished it – there was a moment in time when I was seriously ready to give it up. But then I saw someone on Instagram reading it as well and she urged me to give it another 50 pages at that point. I did and decided to keep going from there.

But I’m relieved that I got to start a new book this morning.


I Think I Might Be Alone On This One

This is probably completely blasphemous to many people, but I just tried to read The Hobbit for the first time and it was not my favourite reading experience.

As a general rule I don’t love fantasy. True, I have been completely swept up in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin but there is enough there that makes it seem like the familiar tale of the Yorks vs. the Lancasters rather than fantasy. I might have missed some massive clues in this same vein, but The Hobbit didn’t seem to have that same historical thread.

I wanted to like it. Love it even. I wanted it to change my perspective on the whole Lord of the Rings culture (full disclosure: I fell asleep during the first Lord of the Rings movie and woke up wondering why Frodo still had the ring) – but reading The Hobbit only served to make me sleepy on my daily commute.

I don’t know whether it was all the walking, the descriptions of Tolkien’s world, or the lack of any real character with which to identify but in general I found my mind wandering off. I often had to backtrack a few pages to see where exactly so-and-so died because I didn’t remember that happening. That’s not good.

There were some bright spots (the end, haha). I enjoyed the part where Bilbo talks to Smaug. I was kind of sad that Smaug died at the hands of men actually, he had been the one character that I really liked. OK fine, Bilbo is kind of adorable sometimes. It takes him a while, but eventually he’s fairly endearing. Actually upon reflection, once Bilbo meets Smaug and things really start to happen, the book wasn’t half bad. But it took me days to get there. This book is not long: 351 pages. It should not have taken me a week to read it.

I very rarely don’t feel like reading. In case that wasn’t clear (what an awkward sentence. Notice I haven’t gone back to take it out): I always want to read. I think about reading and books all the time. But reading The Hobbit felt less like a joy and more like a chore. Like when you have to read books for school that you don’t really care for. And I expected more from Tolkien since I’ve been hearing for years that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the gold standard in fiction.

I respectfully disagree.