Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, YA
Publication date: May 19, 2015
by Greenwillow Books
From the author of Entwined, a brilliantly conceived adventure through an alternate London. This sweeping, cinematic tale of an apprentice scientist desperate to save his family—and his world—is The Night Circus meets Pixar.
Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that is breathtaking and wholly original.
-A copy was provided by Greenwillow for review-
Ah, Illusionarium, that new book coming to town with such a bad-ass name that simply screams wonder and magic and romance. With a cover like that, I had imagined myself fantastically flying through parallel dimensions while eyeing the handsome rose tucked behind my ear that a gentleman in a dashing tuxedo has given me.
…but alas, no… upon finishing this book, my fancy image shattered to tiny pieces, leaving only bitter disappointment behind. This makes me horribly sad, because I really do want to love this book. I’ve only heard great things about Heather Dixon and wanted to experience the magic of her words myself.
When I learned this would have a male hero, I was absolutely ecstatic. The Young Adult demographic is full of female heroines and we rarely see things and situations unfold from the eyes of the opposite gender. I was expecting to love Jonathan and follow his adventures with much vigor and anxiety- and the fact that he was pretty funny (this book has footnotes with his comical comments) added to that expectation, too! – but the more I read on, the more bored and confused I got, resulting to an underwhelming reading experience.
Long story short: I was not impressed.
I think one of the reasons I couldn’t really appreciate this book very much was how things seemed to happen without any real build-up or smooth transition, resulting to a fast pace that doesn’t leave you enough time to take a breath and look at your surroundings. There were some internal narrations here and there which did give me a sneak peek into how Jonathan’s mind works, but the lack of them and the abundance of paragraphs upon paragraphs of things going on to the minute detail didn’t make me connect to him at all, or to any of the characters, or to his plight in general. It really left me annoyed that the plot kept going and going and going without developing any scenes enough for me to feel emotionally-involved in them. At the best of times, when a character does something, whether or not I agree with them, I go, “Ah, I get why he does it.” But in this book, Jonathan does something, and sometimes I find myself scratching my head. Lockwood goes lethal and sarcastic mode and I go, “Uhh… okay.”
And did I mention lack of development and build-up? Jonathan finds himself having the ability to do Illusions. His father can, too, and apparently even Lady Florel can. We learn a lot of people actually have this ability. It was really bizarre when at Point A Jonathan was struggling with it, and then at Point B, he’s apparently the shit and is seen as one of the best, able to do things that nobody else can (OMFG guys who is this guy?! so cool! /s)! And I’m like, “Uhhhhhhhhh… can someone please tell me how the fuck this n00b became the freaking Houdini after only a few Illusions?”
Don’t think I’m done yet, because I have issues with the world-building as well. As the blurb states, there are parallel worlds, here. There are explanations on how they work, but for the love of all things holy, I cannot for the life of me understand them. Seriously. I am so confused on how everything falls into place, and the fact that the parallel world in particular was just bizarre. I mean, do I make sense? It was fine before the hero got into the other dimension of his world (despite my reservations), but as soon as we got to that part, it was just a clusterfuck of complicated stuff after another, giving me a jumbled image in my head of what it looks like.
Put all this factors together, you get a bored and disappointed reader who just can’t wait to get to the ending. Fifty percent in, I started skimming pages because 1.) I didn’t care about the characters; 2.) I couldn’t even really understand the mechanics of the world so the explanations were almost futile; and 3.) BOOOORED. I do think Dixon has a good writing style, though, and I wonder what it would be like if she would work on a book that wasn’t as fast-paced as this and given more space to polish her characters and setting. Alas, however, Illusionarium wasn’t for me.