Anna Van Housen has a secret.
A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. For Anna, the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—handcuffs and sleight-of-hand illusions have never been much of a challenge. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her mother: because while Marguerite’s powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.
But as Anna’s powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious 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.
Is it too much of a pun to say that this book is spectacular? Well, I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (Balzer + Bray) is spectacular!
To say that Anna Van Housen has mommy issues would be a bit of an understatement. Anna has spent her life as her medium mother’s rescuer, partner-in-crime, assistant and opening act. They get along alright so long as Marguerite Van Housen gets all the limelight. But a talented illusionist herself, Anna has a secret that’s making it hard to remain in the shadows: she has magical powers—real powers—from seeing the future to, most recently, communicating with the dead.
Set against the backdrop of 1920s New York City, Born of Illusion pulses with captivating characters, plot twists and magic. And what is illusion without deception? Even though I ultimately guessed the whodunit correctly, there were enough red herrings and shady characters to keep me second-guessing myself until the very end.
As much as I like the characters and the duplicitous plot, the thing I love the most is the setting: New York in the age of bootleggers, flappers and mob bosses. Then there is the seedy behind-the-scenes look at magic acts and medium ploys—something I always find thrilling. And in the wings is the ultimate illusionist (and Anna’s supposed illegitimate father): Harry Houdini. It all comes to together to create an alluring story that had me reading late into the night.
Although I am sure there will be a sequel, I like that this book can easily stand alone—so few YA books do anymore. And just look at that cover! Gorgeous!
Born of Illusion is a great escape read that left me wanting to do card tricks, learn to pick locks and research Houdini. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves magic, New York and a good game of cat-and-mouse.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5 hearts)
This ARC was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.