Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion, #1)

Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion, #1)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.


  1. I have seen this book around and it sounds really good. Especially to me as I haven't read The Diviners or any other book about dealing with spiritualism in time of WWI. I'm so happy you enjoyed this one and for sure will have to read it too! :)
    Great review Maja :)

  2. Yes to the clean ending. Most cliff-hangers are horrible and they frustrate me, so I like it when books in series end like stand-alones :) The writing-style sounds great and although I'm not such a fan of love-triangles, it doesn't sound too bad. Great review!


  3. That's great there wasn't a huge cliffhanger, and the "love-triangle" sounds mild enough not to become too annoying or anything. I am curious about all the novels you listed in the beginning.


  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Maja! I took a chance on it this past summer and was surprised by how much I came to enjoy it, so I'm thrilled that's the case with you as well. Anna's relationship with her mother really is the best part of this book, so I love all the murky depths to it. I'm excited for the sequel, though worried at potential romantic angst. Still, I'm sure Brown will manage to pull it off spectacularly!(:

  5. Passive-aggressive people just make me want to punch them in the throat! (yes, I recently had an experience...one that's still frustrating me) I feel like I've read this one...but I can't remember it! Too many books, too little brain. *sigh*

  6. I wasn't too keen on this book before I read it, but it ended up surprising me in a very good way.
    I loved the complicated mother-daughter relationship as well! And of course Anna herself.
    I liked how atmospheric Brown's writing was. I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Maja! :)
    Fabulous review!

  7. I had no idea this one was so good! I am definitely adding this to my TBR pile Maja! Wonderful review. I think Anna is someone I want to meet and I love a good ghost story as well, even if this isn't quite about ghosts.

  8. I am glad there is no cliffy, and Anna and her mother sound interesting. This was a very interesting time period, and I love reading about it. I haven't tried this author but it appears that I need too!

  9. Yet another book that's silently collecting dust in my shelves. I seriously need to find the time. I've read one book about seances in the last few months and was severely disappointed with it. Born of Illusion may just change my mind about it. The love triangle, though...I think I'll give this a shot, anyway.

    Lovely review, Maja!

  10. Very interesting and lovely review, Maja! I've seen this book around but I just passed it up because it appeared to be the usual YA paranormal. After reading your review, however, I think I judged this book way too early. I absolutely loved In the Shadow of Blackbirds and though I haven't read Diviners yet (*facepalm* I even bought it the day it came out) I love Bray's writing so I'm definitely going to check this one out.

  11. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this story Maja, I really enjoyed The Diviners too, but for some reason when I saw this book around I didn't really think it would be for me, but I'm glad that it delivered on many aspects and that you weren't annoyed by the love triangle either! Great review!

  12. "Anna’s mother turns passive-aggressive behavior into an art form."

    YES! The mother-daughter relationship was the highlight of this story for me, I was absolutely fascinated by the two of them. I just wanted to shake her mother at times and scream SAY WHAT YOU MEAN ALREADY, but I love how Anna dealt with it and that she understood a game was being played. Definitely looking forward to the sequel! Loved reading your thoughts my friend:)

  13. Oh right the Houdini book as I call it, yes I have seen this one around and kost seem to like it

  14. The ghost and mother daughter elements being done well sounds great.

  15. Oh this sounds fab! I also like a good ghosty story as well. I also like that even through she is mature for her years that the innocent shown isn't annoying. WIN. Oh and I don't mind triangles as much as cliffies so a mild one? eh... No cliffie? SQUEE! :D

  16. II tthought tthis was a solid read and I enjoyed all the spiritualism and the complicated mother daughter relationship as well. II am lookin gforward to the sequel to see how Anna grows!Sorry about the typos but the blog is acting weird today and not taking my comment.

  17. This sounds really good-- I honestly enjoyed The Diviners a lot. So this sounds like it could be right up my alley-- and don't you just love the fact that her mother is playing spiritualist while she truly is one? Gotta love the irony in that one, LOL. Awesome review, girly. I'll have to pick this one up. ;)

  18. Thanks for reviewing this! I hadn't heard of it, but I love In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Diviners, so it sounds like this is right up my alley. Can't wait to read it!

  19. I also love the newfound popularity of books dealing with spiritualism during the first few decades of the 20th century. They're still unique enough that I find them refreshing. And, having read and loved both The Diviners and In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I definitely need to get my hands on this novel as well. I've also recently read a few books with well-done tense mother-daughter relationships, so it will be interesting for me to see how those two main elements combine here. And obviously your praise means a lot, so I'm really looking forward to reading this one. Lovely, lovely review, Maja!

  20. Yes! I loved this one too! I just loved the characters, the setting, the time period... I loved it all! Wonderful review!

  21. I would want to read this for the gorgeous cover alone! Nice to hear the insides match the outside. I love that her naivete is not frustrating but rather a reminder that she is young. The dreaded triangle? Well glad to hear it's not too rough. I'm loving that the end wraps up instead of being a cliff! I'm pretty tired of those. Lovely review, Maja! :)

  22. It's so exciting to hear that you liked this book! It's waiting on my shelf to be read. Now I really, really need to get to it. Great review :)

  23. I was quite excited about this book, but then I read diverse reviews, some good and some bad and was on the fence. Your review is making me want to read it now, so I'll probably be getting it soon!
    Thank you, Maja!

  24. I really enjoyed the relationship between Anna and her mother. Great review! Jen @ YA Romantics

  25. For some reason this one didn't work for me at all! I love the 20s but several aspects bugged me. I don't even remember what they are since I read this a few months ago and have put it out of my mind. BUT I'm so happy this book was a hit for you. The cover IS gorgeous for sure. I also had NO idea there was going to be a sequel. I'm curious about it, because I do think this one ended nicely. I will go and check that out now.

    1. Just looked up book 2 and actually, I AM interested in the sequel... Hmmm.

  26. Totally agreed with your review! I usually hate naive characters and a love triangle but they turned out so well in this book. The wait for the next one will indeed be a long one. Great review! :)

  27. Saw your WoW and dug this review up. Sounds like something I would enjoy :) Especially that you mentioned it has good "ghost" stories which is hard to get sometimes. Hooray, 2 more books to the TBR!


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