Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Born of Illusion by Teri BrownBorn of Illusion by Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on June 11th 2013
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, YA
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

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?

Magicians, mediums, old school theatre entertainment, and a historical New York setting; I absolutely loved the atmosphere in every aspect of this novel!

Anna Van Housen-the opening act of her mother’s magic show-is the real deal: she’s a medium, she has visions of the future, and she can feel others’ emotions. Plus, she’s rumored to be Houdini’s illegitimate daughter. With a premise like that, how can I not be intrigued? Plus, just look at this amazing cover! I was excited to finally sink my teeth into this one and it was definitely worth it. Not only is our protagonist a wonderfully compelling character with a great personality, the book is set in 1920’s New York City which is utterly fantastic in and of itself. I’ve always loved a New York City setting, but historical NYC is just so chic and luxurious, I felt transported to a time where everything seems exotic. It was perfect for a story like this! 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

For more on the characters, like I said, Teri created a great character in Anna; one who is ambitious with flaws and weaknesses that make her real and relatable. We see her transform from a girl unsure of her identity, into a confident young woman who believes in her potential. What I loved even more are the relationships she’s fostered with the supporting characters. She and her mom have a peculiar bond that becomes the backbone of the novel. It’s an intricate mother/daughter relationship with hidden meanings and emotions; you think her mother just wants the spotlight all to herself but it’s much more than that. Another relationship to note is between Anna and her cranky neighbor, Mr. Darby. How Anna stubbornly befriends him despite his grumpiness made me like her even more. She’s just the kind of girl who everyone adores. Mr. Darby also surprises by how fun of a character he is.

As for the boys in this book, there are two of them and I enjoyed them both for different reasons. One is sweet and obviously the love interest of choice, the other is mysterious with obvious secrets. I don’t know if it’s the 1920s setting, or the fact that a lot of it is her mother’s doing, but I actually liked the triangle-esque romance. It’s more about Anna deciding who is a better match for her. She doesn’t fall in love with both; it eventually becomes clear which boy she’s meant to be with, and which one will never be more than a friend. While triangles normally irritate me, this one was done with finesse and realism.

What surrounds almost every aspect of this book is mystery. Is Houdini really her father? What is Owen hiding? And there’s the fact of Anna’s terrifying recurring vision. Some of it is pretty predictable, some I didn’t see coming – although I was made to suspect everyone eventually, –  one part even surprised me by having no concrete conclusion but leaving me satisfied nonetheless. It’s safe to say that there is no time to become bored in this novel. From the busy plot to the vibrant atmosphere to the charismatic cast, Born of Illusion is wonderfully and endlessly entertaining!


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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34 Responses to “Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown”

  1. Kris Chen

    This sounds like a fun read. I also don’t normally like love triangles, but the way Anna goes about figuring who is right for her sounds realistic. I’m also intrigued by the mystery and setting. Great review, Giselle!

  2. Amy

    This sounds awesome!! I had wanted to read it, but read very few reviews for it. After yours I am convinced I should… eventually.

  3. Nick

    I’ll be reading this really soon and I have to say after reading your review I’m definitely very excited to start it! I loved the way you described Anna’s character and the setting! I know I’ll love it!
    Fabulous review, Giselle!

  4. Jennifer Messerschmidt

    I’m not a huge historical fan but magicians in the 20s New York sounds like a great setting. I hate love triangles but it can be nice when one is well done. Love a good mystery especially if there are a few surprising things.

  5. Molli

    Oh YAY, Giselle! I’m so glad to see you liked this one so much. I believe I gave it 4 stars as well. I actually didn’t mind the love triangle in this one either, although to me it was so clear who Anna preferred. I loved all the mysteries, and the atmosphere was terrific, like you said. I felt like I was really THERE. Plus Anna was just so a fabulous lead character, and all the conflict…GAH. Such a great book.

  6. Candace

    I agree! I really enjoyed this, the setting, time period, mystery, paranormal aspects and even the romance, it was all great! Wonderful review Giselle!

  7. Ems

    There were a few things about this one that bothered me, but overall it was great. I really loved the setting and the mystery!

  8. Micheline D

    Your review has me drooling (even more) for this book. This is SO going to be my next read!! 1920’s NYC sounds just what the Doctor (Doctor Who?) ordered…especially after BEA 😀 I’m thrilled that Born of Illusion sounds like it has a compelling MC & a mysterious, slightly paranormal atmosphere! That Houdini bit is the icing on an already drool-worthy cake! Awesome review G!

  9. Hollie

    I thought that this one looked fun when I first read the synopsis, so I’m thrilled to see that you enjoyed it so much! I’m excited to see how the love triangle is pulled off – they only bug me if they’re not well written, but this one sounds like it is, so I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Great review! 🙂

  10. Aneeqah

    Yay, I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Giselle! I’m loving the setting- NYC in the 20s?! I’ve yet to read a book set in that time period, although I think I would really enjoy it. All the mystery sounds really nice too, and I can definitely see how that would really enhance the book and the plot. I must say, I’m surprised that you liked the love triangle in this one! I’ve seen a lot of complains about it, but it definitely does seem different from your normal love triangle, actually.

    Awesome review, Giselle! <3

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

  11. Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed

    Sadly this book and I didn’t get along. I thought I would like it because it was very original but it was too slow and kind of boring for me. I DNF it but I kind of want to go back and give it another try, maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it…

  12. Jen (Books and Other Happy Ever Afters)

    I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for awhile now, and I’m honestly not sure why I haven’t! I love historical New York settings as well, and the whole magic concept seriously sounds amazing. Anna seems like a really genuine character that I’ll love! I think it’s great that you actually enjoyed this love triangle– it must be done REALLY well! I’ll have to read this one soon, thanks for the lovely review, Giselle!

    Jen at Books and Other Happy Ever Afters

  13. Christina

    I actually really liked the triangle too. There wasn’t any love for both boys, and they both had different appeal. She’s just a young girl trying to figure out which boy she likes. She’s a bit confused, but she doesn’t do anything ridiculous. Totally worked, even if the end was obvious. Haha. Really loved how her relationships with others were handled, like her mom and her manager. Very nicely done!

  14. Amanda

    I love that there seems to be this 1920s kick in YA lit right now, and, like you, I especially like the idea of 1920s New York City. Love triangles are not my favorite, but this book does seem to be about so much more than simply that. It’s hard for me to resist the melding of historical fiction and fantasy to begin with, and it’s so interesting that the protagonist is supposed to be the daughter of Houdini. So cool! Lovely review, Giselle!

  15. Eileen

    Yay I am so glad that you really enjoyed this one I agree with you on so many parts, the premise for one was so special and unique, and then the MC was relatable and so easy to read about it was totally one of my favorite prts of the entire book, and I thought the romance was well done, too, especially since it incorporated a love triangle.

    Fantastic review, Giselle!!

  16. Neysa Kristanti

    Glad that you enjoyed this one! I’ve been wanting to pick this up, but I’ve never read any novel about magician, so I’m not really sure about what to expect. Great review, by the way, it really make me want to read this book even more!

    Neysa @ [B.O.O.K.L.I.F.E]

  17. Melanie

    Anna is one of my favourite MC of all time. I enjoyed her experience through finding herself. I agree, the love triangle here was a lovely one- nothing merging about this one.

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one Giselle! Lovely review <33

  18. Nazish Reads

    When I first saw the cover of this book, I wasn’t intrigued, to be honest, this cover doesn’t seem that special to me, maybe it’s because those graphic designing classes in college changed the way I look at images and stuff, these days there are only some covers I like and even fewer that I love, because I find myself disagreeing about many covers that people love.

    When I read the synopsis of the book, I was intrigued, I wanted to get my hands on it. From reading your review, I want to read it even more.

    Glad you enjoyed it, and great review.

    -Nazish @ Nazish Reads


    Excellent review! This sounds like a fascinating book. I love the idea of a story that features both real and stage magic prominently. 1920’s New York is always a brilliant setting if pulled off. I just love the atmosphere. And a well done love triangle takes some talent any more. I shall have to put this on my quickly growing to-read list.

    Getty Hesse

  20. Alexa Y.

    It makes me incredibly happy to hear that you enjoyed BORN OF ILLUSION! I’ve been looking forward to this one since I heard it was set in the 1920s (!) in New York City (!). The addition of magic and Houdini pretty much sealed the deal on my interest in the novel. Now, with your positive endorsement, I can’t wait to get to it!