Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Born of Illusion


A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage shows and seances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. For Anna, the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini - or so Marguerite claims - handcuffs and sleight-of-hand illusions have never been much of a challenge. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her mother: because while Marguerite's power may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people's feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna's powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she's tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there's more to life than keeping secrets.

As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she's ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna's visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite's tricks?
From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York --- and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny. Quoted from Goodreads


They say don't judge a book by it's cover, and in this case, it's so totally true.  Okay, maybe some of you like this cover.  That's fine, but I'm not a fan.  In fact I sort of put off reading this book, despite some really positive reviews, because I didn't much care for it.  Okay, hated it.  Still, I'm glad I picked it up because the story inside is absolutely worth it.  

There are so many things I loved about this book. First, the setting. There's something tangible about the world Teri Brown created.  She absolutely captured the essence of the '20s and the magician craze (and mediums.  you can't forget the mediums).  We even get a few cameos by Houdini, which totally caused me to look up a bunch of his tricks on youtube. Really, the setting was superbly done and one of the biggest draws of this book.

Don't worry, though, the characters also lived up to the world through which they moved.  I especially enjoyed (loved/hated) Anna's relationship with her mother.  It's not one you would ever want to emulate, don't get me wrong. It's disturbing and sad on so many levels, but it was delightful to read.  Her mother was such a great character, and Anna's relationship with her was complex, fascinating, and easily the core of the novel.

Anna, herself, was also a great character. She was ambitious and cleaver but had her weaknesses. She had a few glaringly stupid moments, but most of those were overshadowed by her cleaver ideas.  Her relationship with the other characters was also fun.  I loved watching her go from a friendless girl to one with a solid support system. She got a best friend, a beau, even something of a grandfather figure.  Because of who she was, she met with so many interesting people.  I especially liked the mob boss who does her a favor.  I can't wait to see what he demands in return.

As for the romance, it's a love triangle of sorts, but one of those that never fully develops, and it's pretty obvious from the beginning who the winner will be.  Both boys have their selling points, and honestly, I kind of enjoyed the way it played out.  It was never I love you both, but more plays a part in her deciding who she wants to be.  Each boy represents a different lifestyle and who she chooses plays into who she decides to become, but she doesn't become who she wants to be because of some boy.

As for the ending, it was one excellent twist paired with an obvious one.  Honestly, part of me couldn't understand why one of the villains (the main one, the one she discovers second) wasn't obvious.  It was this cluelessness in Anna that drove me crazy in the end. I couldn't understand why she didn't put the pieces together.  As for the other villain, well, that was did take me by surprise.  I won't say there weren't clues, but it was a far better twist, one I didn't really see coming.  

Still, this is a great book. It's a strong 4 stars for me, and I can't wait for the sequel. It perfectly captured an era and peppered it with complex, delightful characters.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction or the paranormal because it does a great job of blending the two.  Plus, while there is absolutely a sequel in the works, it wraps up enough that you aren't left hanging at the end, forced to suffer until the next book comes out.

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