Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Born of Illusion

BORN OF ILLUSION
Born of Illusion #1
Teri Brown
Paranormal Young Adult
384 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from author's website)
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?

MY THOUGHTS
Born of Illusion is a quiet, deeply intriguing story, one that spiderwebs into various different directions, each thread appearing thin and fragile until we touch it and find an underlying strength and a tactile quality we can't help but want to explore with careful thoroughness. While each thread holds a great deal of potential on its own, not all of them seem completely necessary to ensure the success of Anna's story as a whole, and we find ourselves wondering how our reaction to this tale might have differed were scissors taken to just one or two of those additional lingering threads. There is a delicate quality to this story that holds our interest despite the many shiny facets vying for a share of our attention, a sense that if just the slightest movement is made or our voices rise above a whisper that Anna's carefully constructed world will shatter, scattering the pieces of her into the wind where we might not ever be able to find them all again.

Anna has lived her entire life spending equal amounts of time both confidently performing in the spotlight and discreetly hiding in the shadows, her tricks and showmanship onstage a striking contrast to her real extrasensory abilities off it. She's there in the limelight for all the world to see, but at the same time they perceive nothing more than the smoke and mirrors they take as truth simply because they want to, the reality of her hidden behind far more than a curtain as she keeps her true self locked up tight. She's an easy young woman to root for, the difficulties that accompany having one face that tilts up into the light to attract attention and another that tilts down and away to deflect it hold us transfixed, as captivated by the dualities of her life as her audience is during her magic show.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is not Anna's paranormal abilities or life in New York City in the twenties, but rather Anna's complex relationship with her mother and performance partner, one that's an uncomfortable tangle of tension, jealousy, and possibly love, though the love is buried so far beneath the other emotions we can never fully convince ourselves it's truly there. Anna's mother is a star first and a nurturing and caring woman a far distant second, her subtle put-downs and insults camouflaged as motherly concern expertly delivered, honed over years of practice to deliver the deepest cut possible without anyone but Anna noticing. While Anna could have been unbearably frustrating, clinging to the naïve hope that underneath the snide comments and thinly veiled venom lies deep and abiding motherly love, she instead is well aware of the dark games her mother plays and calls her on it several times (though perhaps not quite often enough to soothe our ire), refusing time and again to be the scratching post for her mother's claws.

Anna herself and her relationship with her mother are both highlights of Born of Illusion, and though the story flows well and has a certain ease to its telling that keeps us devouring chapter after chapter, when we finish some questions with regard to the multiple plot threads start to make themselves known. In addition to Anna's visions of the future and her strained bond with her mother we also find ourselves juggling the not-insignificant mystery surrounding Anna's connection to famed magician Harry Houdini, a love triangle, and numerous dangers from a myriad of outside sources, all which have our interest individually but which can be a touch distracting when taken all together in a single story. Also, there's a slight inconsistency with regard to the language, certain sayings and slang from the twenties seeming to pop up at random to remind us of the time period before fading away again and leaving us with a very modern-feeling Anna. Overall though, Born of Illusion, despite its flaws, is an entertaining and worthwhile read, and I will certainly be looking forward to reading more from Teri Brown.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Teri:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Don't forget to to check out my interview with Teri - talking stage names, Houdini, and Anna's mom!

46 comments:

  1. Interesting about the slang. The overuse of slang bugged me about Diviners, even though it was in character for the girl (Evie - was that her name?). But I can see how inconsistent use would be far more annoying.

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    1. Yes, that bothered me about the Diviners as well. This just seemed so sporadic to me - it would be used a couple times in a chapter and then not appear for several more. Not a huge issue though, just something I noticed.

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  2. Ah we talked about this book and I am not entirely sure I want to read this one . I'm not a fan of the 20s and here you are also not completely blown away.. I think I pass!

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    1. It was written well, it flowed really well, and I did enjoy Anna very much, there was just a lot going on Danny:)

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  3. hmmm, the Mother/daughter relationship part seems interesting so I may check this one our from the library.

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    1. That was definitely the most interesting aspect of this book for me. Loved it.

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  4. Oh right, the Houdini book, that is my dad might be Houdini book ;)

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  5. I had no idea that this book had SO much going on. I like a great magician story and even though I hate clowns, circus and magic have always pulled me in. This kinda story would be perfect for me at first sight. Then again, the whole Mother/daughter thing may be too tiring for me since I hate when parents are mean to their children and feed off their success and are only up for their own gain. I'm not a big fan of historical books either, but this one is the twenties and NYC which I find intriguing so perhaps I will try it:)

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    1. Her relationship with her mom is honestly fascinating. She's not outright cruel and there are times when you wonder if you've just misinterpreted her words/actions, and it's all just really well done in my opinion. But she is definitely out for her own gain!

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  6. It sounds like the author has managed to pack in a lot into this intriguing book. I think I'm really interested in Anna's relationship with her mother, despite it sounding like a thoroughly toxic one, I think I would be fully invested in finding out how the author makes it work. I'd never heard of this book before your review Jenny, but I think you've convinced me to give it a try. Lovely review.

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    1. Glad I could put it on your radar Jasprit! I enjoyed it, I just wish there were a couple less things to focus on, replaced with more depth in the remaining few.

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  7. I've seen so many mixed reviews of this that I don't know what to think. It seems to be quite solid as a whole, though, but I think I'll wait till the entire series is out before jumping on this boat. Great review, Jenny - very well balanced.

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    1. I've been deciding to do that more often Keertana! Sometimes it's just more appealing to wait until all the books are out before giving a series a try:)

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  8. "Born of Illusion is a quiet, deeply intriguing story, one that spiderwebs into various different directions, each thread appearing thin and fragile until we touch it and find an underlying strength and a tactile quality we can't help but want to explore with careful thoroughness."

    *dies* Jenny omg you have such a way with words! Never in a million years will I be even half as eloquent as you. 0.o This seems so intriguing and unique! I really want to find out more about Anna's relationships with her Mother and her partner, they seem so intricate and complex- my favorite type. ;) I'm definitely going to pick this up after your review, although I am slightly worried about the 20th century slang. ;/ Fabulous, fabulous review, Jenny!!! <3 x

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    1. Thank you so much Riya! I was riveted to this story for the relationship between Anna and her mom, so tense and frustrating and painful! The slang wasn't too bad, honestly that's why I noticed it. I was a little worried as well, and it was just now and then, not overwhelming by any means:)

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  9. I especially want to read this book because of the relationship between the MC and her mother. I heard about it from Giselle and it looks like you thought it was the focus of the book too. I'll be reading this right after I finish my current book and I'm excited.
    I'm a little worried about the slang and the love triangle. Hopefully, it's not too overwhelming!
    Lovely review, Jenny!

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    1. No the slang and the love triangle aren't too bad, the slang is just a touch inconsistent. I really enjoyed the other elements of the story though!

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  10. You seemed to enjoy this and Gabrielle loved it, so odds are I'll fall somewhere in the middle. :) I'm glad I grabbed a copy of this! Now I'm even more excited to read it ... If I can ever find the time to, I mean.

    Sigh.

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    1. So many books, so little time. And stupid work keeps getting in the way ;-) I'll be interested to see what you think if you finally get around to this one Hannah1

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  11. I like that this story revolves around Anna and the relationship with her mother (well, as one of many threads, as you said). Even though it sounds like a cantankerous relationship, it's good to see, as many family relationships are shoved to the side in YA.

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    1. Yes! Even though their relationship was not a loving, nurturing one necessarily, I'm so glad her mom was at least present. There are so many different type of relationships between parents and children, and I was fascinated by this one.

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  12. I am a bit scared of this one because it's a historical and I don't mesh well with those but I am always SO CURIOUS about it. I love all the magic it speaks of and I mean c'mon, Houdini!

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    1. I'm hoping Houdini plays a larger role in the next book! He was more present in this book in rumors and gossip than he was physically, but I'd love for that to change moving forward in the series!

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  13. I was hoping for a higher rating. but since I love historical and magic, I think I might enjoy this book. Nice review Jenny!

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    1. I really enjoyed Savy, it was only really after I finished that I found myself trying to sort through all that I'd read and realizing a lot had happened:)

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  14. I dislike when language is inconsistently used. It's frustrating. Also? Love triangle. Blergh. Though I do have to say that the relationship between Anna and her mother sounds intriguing.

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  15. Gorgeous review Jenny! I am glad I bought this one already because if not, then I would be rushing to Amazon now to pick it up. ;)

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  16. I'm so excited to read this, even though I'm sure the language inconsistencies and the love triangle will annoy me. Also it does sound like quite a lot of plot threads to juggle, and it seems it wasn't effortless. But I love the sound of the complicated mother-daughter relationship and the Harry Houdini side mystery. What a cool premise! Lovely honest review Jenny, thanks for your balanced thoughts! :-)

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  17. I've read mixed reviews of this one, but I think I might like it. I love the premise and that cover is gorgeous!

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  18. Hate it when plot inconsistencies show up and the dialogue flows weirdly..BUT THE COVER and premise are so interesting

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  19. Hmm..not really sure about this one, Jenny. I wasn't really blown away by the description and I got it confused with a few other books. The use of the sporadic slang would bother me too, but I'm curious about the mother-daughter relationship. You don't see that much in YA lit.

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  20. I can see that mother bothering me so much. Too bad the dialog is uneven, but it doesn't look like it gets too much in the way. I do love the idea of Houdini having a daughter and paranormal abilities. Just for that I need to read it. :)

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  21. The mother / daughter relationship sounds complicated. Glad that Anna is an easy protagonist to root for!

    Nice honest review :)

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  22. You have me intrigued. This is the type of book I need to be in the mood for, despite my love of the roaring twenties. Mother/daughter relationships can be quite complicated and this has me curious. Wonderful review!

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  23. I like the idea of an interesting mother/daughter relationship in this book...you don't see that often or at least I don't in YA literature. That definitely appeals to me; plus, the setting and time period are right up my alley. I might get this one out of the library. Thanks for the great review!

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  24. I don't now if this is for me, Jenny. I love magic but I'm not a fan of historical. They are a hit or miss usually, though I LOVE the cover. Gorgeous! Thanks for the wonderful review :)

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  25. Oh, now that would be an interesting familial relationship to read about! I can't think of another book that had a similar type relationship. So I think that would be one of the highlights for me, as well. I'm not too keen on a ton of different story lines that aren't all resolved though. I would much rather see one really solid storyline, definitely. Overall though, sounds good! Really enlightening review, Jenny, thank you!

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  26. I really enjoyed this one! I loved the setting and time period and I agree the relationship between her and her mother was fascinating. I was actually pretty surprised with how things went later in the book. I'm glad it's a series cause there's definitely more that needs to be resolved!

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  27. ...one that spiderwebs into various different directions, each thread appearing thin and fragile until we touch it and find an underlying strength and a tactile quality we can't help but want to explore with careful thoroughness.

    Woman, you are brilliant. Do I sound surprised? I am NOT surprised.
    I finally caved under pressure and requested this days ago, so now I have a finished copy on the way and absolutely can't wait to read it. Though I don't much care for frustrating, hard on the surface characters like Anna, I know I'll enjoy this one.
    Amazing review, Jenny!

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  28. I love love love that cover! Very striking! :) How come my pale-ass can't look that glam LOL

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  29. WOW. You make this book sound SO GOOD. I love how you talk about the difference between Anna's very public persona and the real person she hides inside. You also make her relationship with her mother sound very intriguing. However, I personally had a lot of trouble with this book, and especially the passive aggressive nature of her relationship with her mother. Though I agree, that I'm glad she got out from under her. I do love this time period, however, and I'm glad this book mostly worked for you. Well written review!

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  30. Thanks for the very insightful review! This is a book I've had on my TBR for awhile now and I'm certainly going to give it a go. :)

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  31. I love a stories that take place in the 1920s. While I do like slang and such in historical fiction, it is kind of weird how the slang, as you said, appears randomly. Other than that, it looks like an excellent read. The cover is gorgeous and the plot seems quite entertaining. Can't wait to get my hands on this book!

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  32. Fab review as usual! I agree that there was a bit too much in this book. Personally I would have chopped all romance because none of it interested me and focused even a bit more on the parents because I thought that ended up being the most rewarding plot.

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  33. Such an amazing review, very poetic and you captured it very well. There aren't many reviews that has mentioned the fact that there were some sayings that were quite modern but I still love the way Brown transported me to NYC 1920s.

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