The Devil's Thief: The Last Magician, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Devil's Thief: The Last Magician, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Surprises abound in time-traveling wizardly saga sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in 1902 and 1904 in an alternate New York City and St. Louis. Readers may want to explore how the novel differs from historical fact. The chapters about the St. Louis World's Fair are especially informative.

Positive Messages

Learning to trust other people can be difficult but is generally worth the effort. Problems can often be solved through teamwork. Acts of revenge have repercussions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Esta is a thief -- clever, resourceful, brave, but also cunning and dishonest. She's often running a con game on those around her. Sometimes she agonizes over her crimes but proceeds with them anyway, but sometimes she heeds her sense of loyalty. She finds herself falling in love with Harte but holds back because of the danger a romance will bring. The cast spotlights people of color and contributions of female characters. 

Violence

Contains scenes of violence, but they are fairly low-key, usually involving threats more than bloody action. A supporting character is badly beaten; another is shot and wounded. Two riots involve gunfire and arson.

Sex

Esta and Harte are strongly attracted to each other but are determined not to fall into temptation. They kiss passionately a few times but are interrupted before they can proceed any further. Female assassin Viola has feelings for ace reporter Ruby, but they mostly go unexpressed.

Language

Some strong language, including multiple uses of "hell," "damn," "bastard," "bitch," "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A villain ingests morphine-laced sugar cubes. The wealthy in power toast their success with champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Devil's Thief is the second volume in the series begun in The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell (Unhooked). Set in a magical Gilded Age New York City and St. Louis, it features a group of con artists attempting to steal magical relics. The cast spotlights people of color and the contributions of female characters. There are scenes of violence, magical and otherwise: a beating, a shooting, riots involving arson. Strong language includes moderate use of "hell," "damn," "bastard," "bitch," and "s--t." There are a few passionate embraces, and one episode where it's clear that the kissing would have proceeded to sex had it not been interrupted.

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What's the story?

Split into two major timelines, THE DEVIL'S THIEF seems to pick up where the previous volume left off in 1902, but soon reveals that the main characters, Esta and Harte, have accidentally traveled two years forward in time. Worse, Harte has lost the priceless Book of Mysteries. It has planted another, highly dangerous entity within him that wants to get out and wreak destruction on them and their allies. Esta and Harte need four elemental stones to control the Book's power, but the relics are scattered in time and space. Meanwhile, back in 1902, their associates Viola, Jianyu, and Cela face a dangerous enemy who plots to exact revenge on them.

Is it any good?

Some fantasy novels encourage readers to kick back and relax, but this second volume in an ambitious saga requires close attention to its twisty plot. With The Devil's Thief, author Lisa Maxwell complicates an already convoluted story by splitting the action along two timelines and geographical settings. There's lots of action and double-crosses, but some readers might prefer a less frenetic and disjointed pace.

The diverse cast continues to develop in psychological complexity, and historical scene-setting in New York and St. Louis remains impressively detailed. The Devil's Thief ends on a number of different cliffhangers, and readers will be left aching for the final payoff to their large investment of time and attention.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Devil's Thief depicts issues of class in the early 20th century. Should society be ruled by citizens with the greatest wealth?

  • The Devil's Thief is set partly at the St. Louis World's Fair. How did the fair depict people from other locations and cultures? Should people be put on display for the education and entertainment of others?

  • Many of the characters in The Devil's Thief are criminals. Is there such a thing as "honor among thieves"? Why do characters who work outside the law appeal to readers?

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