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, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own 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 begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?
From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, and the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.
Born of Illusion is suspenseful, romantic, magical and mysterious. It opens a door to the theatrical side of the 20s, a time filled with mentalists, mediums, gangs and flappers. I love books set during this time period and the paranormal twist hooked me. The setting is explored, not to it’s fullest extent, but in a way that is satisfying and alluring.
Anna is a wonderful character to read about. Her unusual childhood and strange abilities make her an intriguing lead. Plus, she’s a magician and knows how to handle herself in a fight. Born of Illusion is as much a story about Anna and her mother as it is about the mystery. She struggles with coming to terms with her future and balancing her mother’s wishes with her own. She faces the question all adolescents do – “what do I want to do with my life?” and manages to stay true to herself. The relationship she has with her mother is by no means perfect, but it was extremely well developed.
There is a love triangle, but it is not just tossed into the book. No, this love triangle actually makes sense both plot and character wise. I enjoyed the romantic scenes and all the awkward moments. I loved all the characters, especially Mr. Darby and enjoyed the glimpses of Houdini.
The paranormal part was well executed as well, managing to be just unique enough to peak my interest, but not too crazy either. It is wedged somewhere between the super powers type of paranormal and the ghosts and spirits one, so it ended up being both cool and slightly creepy. I can’t wait to find out more about the Society for Psychical Research and Anna’s abilities as I feel there is a lot more I have not yet seen.
The central mystery is built up very well and it is impossible to know who to trust until it is too late. There always manages to be the right blend of the different part of the plot, creating a well balanced story. My one qualm was that of the two plot twists, the one that is slowly unraveled by the characters and then revealed nonchalantly, is the the one I didn’t get. The one the I did get, and found quite obvious, is the one that is revealed as a big surprise. This left me slightly disappointed and confused – shouldn’t it have been the other way around?
Born of Illusion was a fantastic debut to be devoured by fans of paranormal and historical fiction alike. I cannot wait to read Born of Deception which is set in London!