Born of Illusion by Terri Brown
Reading level: YA
Genre: Historical fantasy
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: June 11, 2013
Series: Born of Illusion #1
Reviewed by: Tynga
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?
Anna Van Housen’s life has never been easy. Cruising from town to town with her mom and the circus, always wondering if they will have enough money to eat or a roof above their heads. Not to mention the police and their anti-medium laws. When she moves to New York city with a her mother and have a nice apartment, she dare hope for a better future. But at what cost?
Terri Brown offered us a very original tale when she wrote Born of Illusion. I honestly never read something of the likes before and I enjoyed it! Anna is rumoured to be Harry Houdini's illegitimate daughter and has a knack for magic. She performs shows with her mother and even though Marguerite is the headline, she’s nothing but an actress. Anna on the other hand, she has real abilities and strives hard to keep them secret.
The plot line revolves around Anna’s strong desire to keep her mother safe. She’s been having visions of her mom and her being in danger and it’s her top priority to keep them safe. The story progress smoothly and I liked how Anna didn’t know whom to trust and that she made mistakes judging her peers. It made her that much more human despite her supernatural abilities.
One of the aspect I liked best was the historical set up. 1920s New York with its fashion and people’s proper etiquette. I also liked the references to big events such as the first world war and the Titanic. The atmosphere felt really vivid and I loved it!
I must admit though, there is one aspect of this novel I’m unsure how I feel about. See, Anna and her mother have a very complex relationship. Anna loves her to death and would do anything for her, but her mom treats her very poorly, almost like a tool. She refuses Anna to have any kind of success and to share the spotlight. She’s very self-centered and it made me uncomfortable. From a purely literary angle though, it was a great decision by Terri Brown because it brought more depth to the characters.
Speaking of characters, this novel falls victim to the love triangle trend. It wasn’t heavy or bothersome, but not very original either. One is sexy and brooding the other is good looking and outgoing – both want her for different reasons and I think Terri went a bit too heavy on the stereotype and it was easy from early on and see which one was the good boy and which one the bad boy. So Anna’s choice was no surprise and there wasn’t any suspense there. My favourite character was hands down was Mr. Darby her grumpy downstairs neighbour.
The end was suspenseful and satisfying if not surprising. A lot of mystery still surround Anna’s abilities but the main plot line wrapped up nicely. I haven’t decided yet if I will read the following books. I enjoyed this one and I would recommend it, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. I guess you’ll have to read it and judge for yourself!