Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Born of Illusion

Born of Illusion
by Teri Brown
Balzer and Bray, 2013
Audience:  Grades 7 to 10
ISBN:  9780062187546
Publication Date: June 11, 2013

Anna is a talented magician and she has always performed by her mother's side, whether the performance was a carnival, theatre show, or fraudulent seance.  But Anna isn't a fake, she can actually read people's emotions and she's had visions of the future all her life.  Now the visions have become more personal, and if she doesn't learn who to trust soon, both Anna and her mother could be in grave danger.  Set in the 1920's in fashionable New York City, Born of Illusion combines magic, spiritualism, and mystery into one satisfying story.

First, a confession.  I downloaded Born of Illusion months ago from Edelweiss and forgot.  I actually interlibrary loaned it from my local library.  At least I didn't buy a copy when I already had one, although that day will come.

This book has a full plot, but it works well.  The relationship between Anna and her mother is very difficult.  They love each other, yes, but Anna's mother is very jealous that she is so talented and growing up to be more than her mother could become.  Also, Anna has been told her whole life that Harry Houdini is her father.  Both the reader and Anna come to doubt that fact, but he does play a small, but inspirational role in the story.  

Anna also has complicated relationships with good-time boy, Owen, and more serious Cole.  Turns out one of these is a complete louse that botches a plan to do Anna ill, and that whole affair is honestly the most disappointing part of the story.  

Meanwhile, Anna is learning who she can trust with the information about her abilities.  Can she trust Cole, a fellow Sensitive, or Dr. Bennett, a researcher into the paranormal?  She also befriends the society girls, Cynthia, who uses her uncle to get her out of a couple jams.  

This books strengths are it's characters and dialogue.  The characters are charming and well drawn. I honestly liked everyone, until the very end.  They were complex and intriguing, and had some great lines.  The relationship between Anna and her mother is the most interesting, and at one point, Anna says her mother's words are like a mix of "carmel and arsenic".  Chilling!

To me, the plot falls short of the great characters and wonderfully descriptive writing.  There's little paranormal activity, just one kind ghostie who delivers a warning.  There is a little shivery action, but Anna is so accomplished and strong that she is never in real danger, and even when she is, her captors are so incompetent that it's not much of a fight.  I enjoyed it, I raced to the end once I realized what was happening, but I was ultimately let down a bit.

But, for those that want to walk with psychics and spiritualists through the jazz age, Born of Illusion is a good read-a-like for The Diviners.  Bonus, book two comes out in June, meaning you can be two books down in this series before Diviners two is released.  Think of it like this,  you can't get in to White Chocolate Grill tonight, but you still have to eat, and Ruby Tuesday is just down the road.  It won't be as good, but it's still yummy and you'll be satisfied.  That's Born of Illusion versus The Diviners

And now I'm hungry!  Worse yet, there's no White Chocolate Grill or Ruby Tuesday nearby.  So sometimes you just have to suck it up and eat Ramen Noodles.  What's the book equivalent of Ramen?  Good question for another day.

Happy Reading!

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