Author: Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion, #1
Release date: June 11th 2013
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Paperback, 373 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Anna Van Housen Has A Secret.A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and seances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini - or so Marguerite claims - 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. Because while Marguerite's own powers may be a sham, Anna actually can sense people's feelings and foretell the future.But as Anna's powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions that lead her to explore the abilities she's tried so long to hide. And when an enigmatic young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there's more to life than keeping secrets.From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York - and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.
Stories about the sudden popularity of spiritualism during and right after World War I seem to be all the rage these days. First there were The Diviners by Libba Bray, then came In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, and now there’s Born of Illusion, their equal in both quality and entertainment value. Even though this is only her second young adult novel, it is already quite clear that Teri Brown deserves her place among the best.
Have I told you lately how much I love a good ghost story? No? Well, Born of Illusion is not a ghost story per se but it’s close enough to make your heart race on several occasions. Brown’s writing is my very favorite kind: elegant and unobtrusive, the author’s voice completely transparent. With a voice like Anna’s, another strong presence was wholly unnecessary, and Brown did an excellent job of making herself disappear behind her words.
Anna was raised by a mother who routinely cheats people out of their livelihood by holding fake séances and pretending to communicate with the departed. But unlike her mother, Anna is the real deal, a Sensate, a psychic, and very determined to hide it. Nothing good could come out of revealing the truth, especially to her self-centered, opportunistic mother. But at the same time, Anna must find a way to uncover truths about herself and control her talents, before they end up controlling her.
Complicated mother-daughter relationships are among my very favorite things to read about, and Anna’s mother turns passive-aggressive behavior into an art form. She is a performer on and off the stage and a master manipulator to boot. She’s never much cared for Anna, aside from the benefits of having a talented magician for a daughter, and she’s ready to do just about anything to control her – so when she says Harry Houdini is Anna’s father, Anna isn’t sure she can trust her.
Attack and counterattack. Strategy and schemes. Why is my relationship with my mother more like a chess game than a family bond?
Anna is so passionate about her work as a magician, a competent young lady with firm opinions and a strong attitude. But Brown didn’t make her seem too old, her naiveté shone through at just the right moments, and it served to remind the reader that she is indeed 16, and not 36, as it sometimes seemed.
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.
Most of Anna’s naiveté and inexperience shone through in dealings with her romantic interests. She had no idea how to behave around Cole or Owen (and yes, there are two boys fighting for her attention), and she often handled things poorly. But in this context, her innocence and immaturity weren’t frustrating, they were somehow endearing. As far as love triangles go (oh, the dreaded words!) this is a mild one, but it's there nevertheless. I know many readers have issues with them and I do too, but be patient with our Anna, she’s only now learning to navigate the complicated world of romantic relationships.
Despite there being a sequel in the works, Born of Illusion wraps up quite nicely, which is yet another point in favor of this gorgeous book. A nice, clean ending doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the next book – as far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough. Teri Brown truly is a force to be reckoned with.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.