Review: Born of Illusion

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Goodreads Summary:

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 fo 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

First I just have to mention, that while I think the cover is beautiful, it there me off a bit. This is supposed me set in the 1920s, but I get such a Victorian vibe from that cover, and it there the atmosphere off for me several times.

I felt like this book let me down. There was so much potential here: magic, unconventional female protagonist, Houdini, the Roaring 20s, complex mother/daughter relationship, secret societies! And pretty much every one of those elements fell flat.

The “mystery” was very predictable, I figured it out pretty much as soon as the two antagonists showed up that it was them. Furthermore, the big climax was a bit lack luster, rushed, and with an easy out. The whole thing just felt messy to me. The Secret Society that is played up in the blurb is never an actual entity we interact with, which I feel was one of the things that made this story ultimately drab. The motives behind the two “bad-guys” felt very basic as well – I guess I have gotten too spoiled with complex villains lately. I was just . . . underwhelmed by this whole story. It lacked overall depth that would have made this story more successful for me.

The only part of the story I really enjoyed was the relationship between Anna and her mother. Anna loves her mother but also hates her at the same time, feeling more like a competitor/tool than a daughter. I loved the warring emotions that played between the two of them throughout the book. Also, I really enjoyed the challenges Anna had with her idea of being a magician – loving preforming and the inventiveness of it, while also wanting to have a “normal” life.

However, the few redeeming qualities of this are not enough for me to pick up the sequel.

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