Title: Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1)
Author: Teri Brown (website ★ twitter)
Pub. Date: June 11, 2013
Source: e-ARC via edelweiss
Summary: 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?
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Historical Fiction
At this moment, I’m not a girl with an overbearing mother. I’m not a girl who likes a boy who’s only interested in her strange abilities. At this moment, I am a magician.
I believe Ms. Brown wrote Born of Illusion for me. She compiled all my favorite subjects – the Jazz Age, sideshow acts, mobsters, magic – into an amazing story. The only thing missing was the mention of Romanovs (although the second book deals with RASPUTIN of all people!! So, yeah, I’m convinced she wrote these just for me).
Anna Van Housen is not like other sixteen year old girls. She and her mother rarely stay in a city long enough to make friends and they’re constantly keeping an eye out for the local law enforcement – holding séances is illegal, you know. Anna’s beautiful, glamorous mother is the star of their shows: she’s the medium, though her act is little more than smoke and mirrors. It’s Anna who has the true gift. She’s content to sit back and play the attendant and occasionally perform some magic.
All her life Anna has heard the rumors about her father. Could he really be the famous Harry Houdini? It would certainly explain her natural abilities. But what about her extra talents? Her visions?
Just when Anna thinks she finally has some grasp of normalcy, a strange boy moves into the neighboring apartment. Whereas with other people, Anna can easily read emotions, but this boy is blank. Things go from bad to worse when their usual séance tricks go a bit too far and Anna being the unwilling recipient of a ghost’s spirit.
Right off the bat I knew Born of Illusion was going to be great. Having finished, I’m very pleased to say it didn’t let me down! From the opening pages I believed I was transported back to the Roaring 20s at the height of Prohibition. So many times I’ve read historical novels with characters who would otherwise be completely contemporary were it not for mentions of period clothing or hairstyles. Born of Illusion, however, felt real to me. I didn’t get the feeling that Brown read wikipedia, added in a few details here and there and called it historical fiction. Her research showed and I applaud her for it!
Another aspect I felt was done well was the relationship Anna had with her mother. They have their good days and their bad days. There are times when Anna feels her mother’s love. However, there are days when her mother’s jealousy and selfishness show through. After hearing their manager praise Anna’s talents as a magician, Anna’s mother becomes infuriated and plays petty mind games with her – refusing to speak or worse, smiling her sickeningly sweet smile. All throughout Anna’s life her mother has been spreading rumors about Houdini in an attempt to further her own career. I totally understood Anna’s frustrations and I rejoiced when she finally stood up to her mother.
The boys were Born of Illusion‘s one downfall. I thought it was pretty obvious who would win out – and that the other one was up to some pretty shady stuff. The moment he appeared I didn’t trust him and my instincts didn’t fail me. I’m still not quite certain how I feel about the other boy, but I’m curious to discover more about him and his work.
Although I really enjoyed this novel, I wish there would have been a bit more of everything. More scenes with Houdini, more séances, more magic. More answers. Things wrapped up nicely, but I’m still left with a few unanswered questions and I’m hoping those will be discussed in the next book.
If you’re a fan of paranormal and historical YA, definitely check out Born of Illusion. I thought it was fantastic and eagerly await the next book (RASPUTIN, people!!)!
& heads up: back in January I reviewed one Brown’s adult novels, Summerset Abbey. This series takes places shortly before WWI and it’s fantastic!