Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion, Book #1
Published: June 11th, 2013
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
384 pages (e-ARC)
Genre: Young adult historic fiction/paranormal
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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?

I’ve always had a fascination with magic and the 1920s, so Born of Illusion was one of my most anticipated books of 2013. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. While I didn’t love it the way I expected to, I still really enjoyed it, and thought it was a solid debut from Teri Brown.

I liked Anna instantly. She was a strong main character with a distinctive voice. Having grown up in show business, she’d seen and done a lot more than the typical teenage girl of the 1920s. Her mother dragged her around from city to city to perform shows, so Anna never really had much of a home or a chance to lead a normal life. I sympathized with her desire to have a normal life, be loved, and find a real home. Her mother was selfish and entitled, and her refusal to let Anna have any of the spotlight or recognition made me so mad! Their bizarre relationship added great tension throughout the story, and I was always wondering what her mother would say or do next. 
"Gone is her mournful voice, replaced with a commandeering tone worthy of a queen. Mother is the master of a thousand voices and she uses each one with the skill of a butcher wielding a knife." 
~Taken from page 37 of the ARC of Born of Illusion by Teri Brown~

For me, the story started out strong and I had really high hopes. I liked Anna and connected with her, and I was curious about her life. Her mother seriously pissed me off, and I liked the potential romance that started to blossom. While the story held my interest throughout, parts of it felt a bit slow, and there was a lot of Anna’s inner dialogue, which tended to get a bit repetitive.

The writing in Born of Illusion was fantastic. Brown did a great job of describing both people and places, and I always felt like I was able to see and feel what Anna saw and felt. The first person present tense made everything feel that much more real, and made the underlying tension more pronounced. I really enjoyed that tension, as well as the mystery; even though I was pretty sure I had it figured out, I liked that it wasn’t easy to tell who to trust, and that each new character added a new dimension to the story.

Well written with dynamic characters, a fascinating setting, a hint of romance, wonderfully woven elements of the paranormal, and plenty of mystery and action, Born of Illusion has something for everyone, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

*By the way, the next book in the series, Born of Deception, is apparently about Rasputin, which made me squee with barely contained glee. I’ve had this bizarre fascination with him since high school and I don’t think I’ve read any fiction involving him, so I’m really excited!

3.75 stars
Have you read Born of Illusion? What did you think? Do you like books set in the 1920s?


  1. I love the cover of this book!

    I'm not a big fan of historical fiction but I think I'd like the paranormal elements in this one.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this despite the few things you mention.

    A wonderful review Marie :)

  2. I basically want to spend the rest of the day staring at that baby penguin in your rating. BUT since that's probably not appropriate... ;)

    Anyway, wonderful review. I think I rated it "beam-worthy", which is my 3 stars. I had hoped to REALLY love it, but I do like how the author set up the series. I think this is going to be one that (I hope) gets better with each book.


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