Book Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Posted July 15, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 21 Comments

Book Review: Born of Illusion by Teri BrownBorn of Illusion by Teri Brown
Published by Balzer + Bray on June 11th, 2013
Genres: historical, paranormal, young adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.


21 responses to “Book Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

  1. I agree — the second book needs to have a stronger story arc, and perhaps a more personal narrative. I found the heroine too dull and monotonous in her narration, and that really affected my overall reading experience. Hopefully the sequels would improve for me, but I’m glad you enjoyed this a lot, Kara!

    Faye @ The Social Potato

  2. I bought this one the other week just because of the gorgeous cover. It’s SO eyecatching and gorgeous! And the book sounds good, too, so I’m happy to see that you gave it a decent rating! I’m curious to see if I’ll feel the same way about the main character.

    Great review, Kara!

  3. Amy

    I’m not much of a historical fiction reader either, but I love the 1920’s. I almost got this one because for one, the covers gorgeous, and then it is set in a time period I actually like. I’m glad that you liked it even with the blah romance and it being pretty average. I think I will like this and hopefully I can get around to it eventually. Great review!

  4. I agree that The Diviners is much more memorable than Born of Illusion (though somehow I rated Born of Illusion higher than The Diviners.) The love triangle in this one was a bit of a drag, I agree—I didn’t feel like either of the love interests were really great, you know? And YES, the ending was super lame compared to the rest of the book. I was disappointed. However, I liked Anna as a protagonist a lot, and this kind of story is really fun (even if it’s been done before). Happy that you liked it, Kara, in spite of your difficulties with historical fiction! 🙂

  5. Sometimes I find that I nitpick more on the books that I’ve enjoyed – maybe it’s just a quality of expecting more when there’s clear evidence that it could be more. Okay, that was totally convoluted, so I’ll just hope that you know what I meant. I’m with you on certain time periods. The 20s – yes, Henry VIII – probably not. And the Diviners is stunning and hard to compete with. Anna sounds like a fantastic heroine, and though neither the love triangle nor the ending sound all that appealing, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one. That you enjoyed it is further incentive to move this one up the TBR!

    • Me too! I absolutely nitpick on the books I love more. For me to give that 5, the book really has to be perfect in my eyes. And yup, this book wasn’t perfect but it sure was entertaining!

  6. I feel silly for ignoring this at BEA now! I’d never heard of it but the fact that it’s hist. fic, set in the 1920s and that you rated it the same as The Diviners (which I also loved)makes me know I need to read this!

  7. A strong main character generally gives a lot of weight to my thoughts on books, even when there are some elements I’m picky about. After all, that story wouldn’t exist without the protagonist. I’m glad you found Anna to be a strong protagonist, even if there were other elements about this story that you weren’t quite as crazy about. I quite enjoyed The Diviners, but I think Bray almost cared more about historical authenticity and the general atmosphere than her characters; it sounds like the opposite is true for this. I’m interested to see if I end up making tons of comparisons to The Diviners myself! Wonderful review!

  8. I agree the the romance was mediocre at best but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book like it tends to. I think I was too in love with the time-period, magicians and séances >.< The ending wasn’t as strong as the rest of the book you’re right but it still left me wanting to know more! The MC was strong and not your stereotypical YA MC…sometimes they all feel like they have the same traits but Anna was fresh. I still need to read the Diviners though but I finally have a copy now thanks to Giselle so I’ll hopefully be reading it soon. It’s a massive book though so it’s a little intimidating O.O Great review Kara

  9. Oh the romance frustrated me so much-I did not like either guy and wanted more about her complicated mother and father. I did not realize it shared plot elements with The Diviners, a book I am still looking forward to checking out at some point this year.

  10. We have pretty much the same opinion for once! *highfives temporary brain twin*

    The Diviners was a better book for sure, though I know it’s not fair to compare them like that. BOI might have been a full four for me if I hadn’t read the other two 1920s books. C’est la vie.

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