The Last Days; A Book Report on The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins

This book is about the slow diminution of magic in 12th -13th century Ireland due to the invasion of the Christian church and their lust for power. The Celts and the magical beings, known as the Sidhe, struggle to keep their hold on their homeland and rely on the power of the Morrígna twins to save them. When one of these twins is murdered and their power diminished, the English finds the perfect time to strike. The story focuses on many different characters and their stories, allowing the reader to choose their side and experience everything.

The book began with the framing device of starting in the present to go back to the past to tell the major story in which the book was focused on. This method served as ineffective in its construction due to the complete immersion in the main story with no reference back to the present character until the ending. The framing devices intent seemed to be to connect the reader to the main character using a present-day setting, but the connection fell flat. Starting with the death of a character that the reader does not sufficiently get to know serves as more of a placement device in the frameworks of the story rather than a moment of empathy.

The ending came back to the initial framing device to find that the death was faked and the character was still alive, but due to the lack of personal connection to the character, it is ineffective. It also serves to, theoretically, tie up lose ends throughout the story, but does not serve as such. The ending feels unsatisfying but also indefinite and unclear. We end the section on the 13th century with Aisling’s eventual death. Aisling served as the hope to save Ireland from the English and restore magic. After this we get a six hundred year gap, which serves as an extremely important gap in time that could have been explored and expanded upon rather than the use of a framing device to connect the past to the present day. In fact, the framing device brings the reader back to the realization of the fiction in the fantasy and brings us out of the book. It also served as a shoddy way to show the influence of the magic throughout the story in the present day, because we lost so many years in between the initial story and present day.

Ireland’s history feels incomplete and the questions too enormous. There is not an important or climactic ending, Ireland simply fades away into the present leaving the reader to fill in the gaps with their own historical knowledge.This is a risky and unsuccessful manevour since the history of the story is already being manipulated due to the inclusion of the fantasy where the boundaries of history and fiction are blured. The references to St, Patrick and Chaucer showed its attempt to produce an alternate history but the leap to the present shattered the connection. We leave 13th century Ireland in the midst of a war, with which we get no sense of completion or conclusion.

The only inclination the readers get about the past time is the epilogue dictating what happened to certain characters. Even this seems to be a laugh in the face of the reader, for it focuses on the most minor and insignificant characters. The epilogue even gave the impression that the English were victorious, because none of the characters mentioned were the Celts or magical beings.

We are not given enough information to calculate what possibly could have happened over the extensive span of time. Theoretically the answer would be that the English took over and all the magical beings were driven out, yet in the present the magic remains. The magical beings mere presence in the present brings many new questions about the past that was so abruptly left behind. The twins were an essential part of the entire story but were still left to dust. Bringing in such a major and central idea and then letting it blow away with the rest of the Irish history makes the whole story feel unimportant and makes the reader wonder why we focused on this character and what they gave to us as readers.

The conflicts themselves arise in the world throughout the viewpoint of different characters, essentially allowing the reader to choose their own alliances. This would have been more effective without the use of the framing device, because it sets up with the descendants of the Irish, pushing the readers alliance towards the Irish rather than the English.

Since it was told through multiple perspectives, it was hard to identify a main character for the reader to connect with. Interestingly enough, Aisling serves as the centralized character even throughout the multiple perspectives. When perspectives shifted to another person, the reader was anxious to hear Aisling’s story resume. Her story was a complex trial of the tribulations of a human with the soul and power of a Goddess. The story takes the meaning of losing ones better half literally as she loses her twin sister, with whom she is emotionally and physically bound to. It can serve too symbolize the immense bonds of twins, sisters, or of family in general because the twin sisters literally complete one another. Aisling’s separation from her sister can serve to show how unhealthy a bounded and essential love can be.

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