*An ARC was provided by Balzer & Bray in exchange for an honest review*
Born of Illusion is a book I fell in love with the moment I found out about it. Beyond it's attractive cover, it promised to be a tale of mediums, magicians and yes, illusion. Set in New York in the 1920's, the jazzy backdrop and mysterious tone...even mentions of Harry Houdini made this historical tale with paranormal elements made this impossible to resist. I'll admit that I hesitated for a split second before cracking open the cover, because honestly it almost sounds almost too good to be true! Could it live up to all I was building it up to be in my head? The answer? Oh yes, yes it could! It so could, that I can hardly stand it!
Our main character, Anna, is a gifted illusionist and assistant to her famous 'medium' mother. Anna's entire life has be spent in the underground world of séances, mentalists and deception. Which is a good thing because Anna has secrets of her own. The supposed illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini himself, according to her mother, Anna already draws enough stares and unwanted attention as it is. If the truth ever got out...if people really knew that Anna can see the future & that she can sense other people's feelings? Well Anna can't even bear thinking about it. Soon though, she may not have much choice. As her powers become stronger and stronger, she begins to have chilling visions of her mother in grave danger and Anna is faced with a choice: should she open herself up to her powers and risk exposure - if it means she might be able to keep her mother safe? As if Anna doesn't have enough to be getting on with as it is, a dark and equally mysterious boy just happens to move downstairs and Anna has to wonder if and how he could be connected to all of this, before it's too late.
Born of Illusion started off a bit slow admittedly, but I didn't really mind because I was able to fully soak up the time period and setting. New York City in the roaring 20's must have been something to behold and Teri Brown did a spectacular job bringing it to life before my very eyes. From the fashion to the descriptions of the city life...the way a character would turn a phrase or use an expression, everything was brilliantly woven into the story & used to full-effect. I was truly fascinated by the life of magic and illusion that Anna was a part of in her day to day life and the time-period chose was fit to a tee because in the early 1900's, the whole world seemed to be brimming with possibilities. Advances in science and technology would have seemed like magic to many and the author did a fantastic job of utilizing these tools to build a rich atmosphere dripping with intrigue, mystery and just the right touch of fantasy!
The cast of characters in Born of Illusion is kept reasonably small, which I found quite refreshing. I feel like a lot of the books I read lately feel almost overstuffed with superfluous characters. In this case specifically, I felt keeping the number of characters on a smaller scale gave the book an added mystique and definitely fit with the tone of the plot. Each character was introduced for a purpose, even if it wasn't always clear right away what that purpose was. As a main character, I warmed to Anna quickly and my affection for her only grew as the story unfolded. I love a girl who can think on her feet in a pinch and Anna was all that and more. Her love of performing and making the audience wonder never failed top put a smile on my face and her quiet resolve was something I really admired about her - I could easily be friends with someone like Anna!
Another aspect that really worked for me was Anna's complicated relationship with her mother. Generally speaking, I'm consistently surprised when an MC in YA fiction has a living parent to begin with. Orphans seem to be a prerequisite nowadays, or maybe it's always been the case...I don't know. It just instantly feels fresh to me when the protagonist has even one parent. Beyond that though, Anna and her mother are simultaneously very different and quite similar in a way that causes them immense conflict with warmer, more normal moments thrown in. I relished uncovering bits of their shared past and how their adventures & misadventures have made them into the women they are today, both separately and as a team.
There is romance in Born of Illusion but it is of the slow-burn and very believable variety. There is even the beginning of a love triangle but fear not: it's short lived! Soon enough it becomes fairly obvious that there's only one real choice to be had here. I'm usually not a fan of the dreaded triangle but if there's a purpose to it, or if it's handled properly it can be enjoyable - and in this case it was! The two boys in question: Cole and Owen clearly have different intentions, both where the plot is concerned and also as far as their relationship with Anna. In any case, I had fun watching it all unfold!
Born of Illusion was quite simply dripping with mystery & allure . The possibilities felt endless, and Teri Brown certainly took full advantage of her playing field, in my opinion. This tale was deliciously plotted & executed and though it wasn't entirely perfect, it was the perfect balance of early 20th century ambiance with a touch mysticism thrown in for good measure. I wanted to fully immerse myself in this world and never come back up for air.
Reminiscent of The Prestige by Christopher Nolan (featuring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman) & The Illusionist by Neil Burger (featuring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti & Jessica Biel) but with a fresh YA twist! Born of Illusion is simply too much fun to pass up!
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