Published by Balzer + Bray on June 11th, 2013
Genres: historical, paranormal, young adult
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Anna Van Housen has a secret.
A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own powers 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 begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? 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, and the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. Though I am trying to read more and widen my literature horizons, there are a lot of time periods that simple don’t interest me. I really wish that wasn’t the case, but such is me. And every time I do try to read in a time period that bores me, it never ends well. At any rate, the 1920s is one decade I feel good about. I will try to get my hands on any book set in that era.
I almost feel it is impossible to talk about Born of Illusion without mentioning the other book set in the 20s with a few similar plot elements that was published LAST year. And The Diviners was one of my favorite books published last year and it still resonates with me many months later. Born if Illusion is a great novel and I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it has the same staying power as that book. And I have to take that into consideration. I did give them both the same star rating, so clearly I enjoyed this, but it was missing some of the imagery and wonderful writing that made that book exceptional.
But you know, despite its flaws, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Anna and thought she was a great character and one I easily related to. I find that I tend to enjoy books a lot more when I like the MC, and I tend to overlook flaws that I probably should not when I feel for the main character. Anna and her mother do not get along, and her mother is not a very good person at all. She doesn’t know who her father is, but her mother keeps saying it’s Harry Houdini. There is no proof of that, however. But Anna is always trying to improve herself. Improve her magic, improve her life, and I can relate. She hasn’t had it easy, and she wants to get out of a negative situation and be free to be who she is. Until her mother stops scamming people, however, or Anna finds a way out on her own, she’s caught between a rock and a hard place. Haven’t we all been in a similar situation at some point in our lives?
One of the things I really didn’t care for in Born of Illusion was the romance. I just didn’t feel it added anything to the story, and I didn’t feel that either of the love interests were particularly intriguing or well developed. I feel like the sbook would have been just as engaging without a love triangle. While it wasn’t an obnoxious triangle, I do sort of feel like it was there just for the sake of being there. Though it was fairly easy to figure out who Anna would pick, I just felt very MEH about the whole thing.
Also, the ending. Though it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the book at all, I found it predictable and not as strong as the rest of the book. But I don’t think it really matters if you cared about Anna as much as I did.
In a lot of ways, this book was pretty average. But I think a really strong main character saved a lot of the elements that did not impress me. For the second book, I’d like to see more atmosphere and a stronger story arc. But I have high hopes that it will be good. This is a series I am invested in and I’m excited to see where it goes next.
I know it seems like I nitpicked a lot, but I really did enjoy it. It was well paced, well researched, and exciting. I enjoyed myself while reading, and sometimes that is all that matters.