26 November, 2022

LitStack Rec: Desperate Characters & The Last Days of Magic

The Last Days of Magic, by Mark Tomkins

Bookmarked in a modern day mystery, Mark Tomkin’s debut novel, The Last Days of Magic, is mainly set in Medieval Ireland, where magic and religion wrestle for dominance in a changing world.

Twin sisters Anya and Aisling have been declared the living aspect of the goddess Morrígna, trained since birth to rule over both the Sidhe and Celts. But days before their coronation on their fourteenth birthday, treachery sunders them and imperils the bond between the magical and the mundane. Attacked by both  the Skeaghshee (a tribe within the Sidhe) who have aligned themselves with the powerful Roman Church, and the military might of King Richard of England, Aisling and the mystical denizens of the Middle Kingdom must fight to keep from complete eradication.

The Last Days of Magic is both a historical novel, bringing in such personages as Cardinal Orsini, Queen Isabeau of France, and Geoffrey Chaucer, and a fanciful retelling of Celtic legend and mythology. Wonderfully detailed and crackling with life, the story does justice to political intrigue which spans centuries, the pull of forbidden knowledge, the corruptive force of the promise of power, and the marvel of magic that lives in the very bones of the land. Author Mark Tomkins is able to spin a mesmerizing tale bolstered by immaculate research that allows fairy tales to ring as true as church doctrine.

Jordan finally, truly understood why the Roman Church had tried to keep people out of Ireland, why they were determined to destroy its Ardor now. How could they be the exclusive voice with and for God when God was so clearly everywhere here? How could kings claim divine selection when so much divinity was in everyone and everything?

And yet, this is not a simple “us versus them” morality tale. Many of the characters in The Last Days of Magic grapple with their roles in the ensuing conflicts (while others are grimly single-minded in their purpose, morality be damned), and the ideological clashes ring just as loudly as the actions taken on their behalf.  There is evil here, and betrayal and blind ambition, but there is also hope and belief and loyalty. It’s a well written, sweeping, achingly beautiful tale that should entice those who love fantasy, those who love history, and those who simply love a good read.

—Sharon Browning



  • Lauren Alwan

    Lauren Alwan’s fiction has appeared in the O. Henry Prize Stories, the Southern Review, the Alaska Quarterly Review, StoryQuarterly, in the Bellevue Literary Review. She is the recipient of a First Pages Prize, the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, and.a citation of Notable in Best American Essays. Her essays have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Catapult, World Literature Today, The Rumpus, The Millions, Writer's Digest, and others. She is a prose editor at the museum of americana, an online literary review. Follow her on Twitter at @lauren_alwan and learn more at www.laurenalwan.com