Born of Illusion by Teri Brown.
Published: June 11, 2013.
Published by: Balzer & Bray.
Source: Recieved an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Harper Collins Canada!
Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?
Born of Illusion combines two things I love: historical fiction and mystery. There was no way I was going to miss this book and I am so glad I didn't. It was anexciting story where the magic of the 20's really comes alive, but also has a prominent dark side of deception, family issues, and mysterious characters. The combination was fantastic and I hated to put it down!
This story about a young girl brought up in the world of magic and illusions definitely managed to hold my attention because there was just so much excitement. There were tense moments between characters, the illusion/psychical aspect was never dull, and many scenes had my heart just pounding in fear or anticipation. Teri Brown managed to combine wonderfully developed character relationships with a plot that just kept twisting and growing with each page turned. I loved how much I was kept in the dark about so many of the little mysteries, only given a little hint here and there. These hints also served as excellent chapter-ending grabs that made it so hard not to just keep reading until I was done! I was very impressed with how in-depth and enjoyable the plot of this novel really was.
One aspect of the book that really caught my attention was Anna's relationship with her mother. It is not an easy one for Anna; her mother is the star and she makes sure Anna knows it. It was very sad to see the way Anna is treated by her mother because it clearly takes a toll on her self-esteem and, along with the fairly nomadic and risky lifestyle her mother forces her to live, has made her an extremely cautious, lonely and often disappointed girl who has trouble trusting people. This clearly comes through in her character but it is nice to see her grow into her own a little as the novel progresses. Marguerite, Anna's mother, while easy to dislike for her treatment of Anna, is a very fascinating character herself. Brown has written her to have a captivating allure about her in public, but in private scenes with Anna we are privy to occasional chinks in her armor that reveal a jealousy of Anna, giving more reason to her hurtful behaviour. It was especially intriguing to see this all through Anna's eyes, because we see that Anna knows how impressive her mother is, yet there is a constant hurt from feeling rejected and pushed down that always follows, impacting the reader's view of both women.
Poor Anna doesn't only have her mother to deal with, but also multiple different attractive boys. Colin, Anna's new neighbour, and Owen, nephew of her and her mother's manager. Anna tends to have a hard time interacting with them, making a bit of a fool of herself, but it is easy as a reader to forgive her for that because not only is she well aware of her mistakes but because she hasn't had much chance to interact with boys, so this is new to her. Personally, I was often quite confused (in an intrigued way, though) by Colin, simply because of the impact he had on Anna's psychical abilities and he way he seemed to be well aware of it. Owen seemed to be the safer choice for much of the novel, but I felt like something was a little off about him, too. This really helped me want to keep reading because I was never fully behind one love interest or the other. I just kept needing to know more about them before I could say that one was better for her than the other and luckily Brown constantly gave little tidbits that helped encourage me along. There are other males in the book one can't help but be cautious about, including a man named Dr. Bennett, who claims he can help Anna, as well as her supposed father, Harry Houdini, whose role I think was played out marvelously. The constant suspicion and questioning was great for me because it meant I was invested and wanted answers! There is certainly no shortage of mystery in any part of this book, which is one of the things I loved.
With questions constantly swirling in my mind, some magic and spiritualism, and the 1920s as a setting, this book dazzled me while keeping me constantly racing ahead to try to learn everything I could.
4.5 stars to this fun and exciting (but thankfully not shallow) read!