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Illusions Paperback – 6 Nov 2018
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About the Author
Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.
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Saverio is obsessed with finding out how his trick can be done. He's so obsessed he starts attending every performance. He will do literally anything to work out how Neville's new trick is done. Saverio is even willing to seduce the magicians assistant.
Thomas wishes he was studying at a top school. He loves literature and wants to write his own material, poems are his forte. Thomas is special. He has a talent a magician could use and his parents choose this path for him. He becomes Neville Wighton's assistant.
Thomas wants to be loved and find himself. Saverio is obsessed and willing to do whatever it takes.
I have to be honest I struggled with the writing style of this book and I would recommend you try a sample before diving in. I actually read this book in two halves. The story is interesting I just wish it wasn't written in diary form. Thomas doesn't get to live his dreams he only gets to help others. Illusions is bittersweet.
3 stars out of 5. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
4 stars — Guess who has a crying headache now? Oh, that would be me!!! I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this one, as it’s a bit out of my wheelhouse in a couple of ways: a) I don’t tend to read historical; and b) it was written as a series of journal entries, which I wasn’t sure I was going to like. But that blurb just sucked me in, you know? Which, I must say, now that I’ve read the story, I feel like the blurb is kind of misleading. I kept expecting something because of the blurb, and maybe I’m just not thinking correctly, but I don’t feel like the blurb *quite* fits into the story. Regardless, though, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself.
Since this book was outside the norm for me, I was super reluctant to start it. But once I did, I became intrigued. And the further along I went, the more invested I became in the story and our characters. I’m not sure if the way the story was told (through journal entries, and the occasional newspaper clipping, etc) was actually necessary. Part of me says yes, definitely. Part of me felt like the journal entries didn’t always feel like real journal entries. It was like the author was trying to stick to that, but occasionally it felt more like narrative. But honestly? In the end it didn’t matter to me, because my love for Thomas and Saverio overshadowed everything else.
Thomas broke my heart so many times. He was so shy and nervous, and struggling with so much. And seeing all those people using him was just disgusting. He had such a sweet, pure heart that it just made it worse. But I did love seeing him grow throughout the story, build confidence, and become more self-accepting.
Saverio took a bit longer to get his hooks into me. Which is not to say I disliked him at the beginning, but I was wary of him. Even with what we know of how he grew up, it was still hard to watch him being so cold and almost mercenary. But I think that made his slow fall that much more satisfying, and believable. If the turnaround had been abrupt, it wouldn’t have felt authentic. I even appreciated the occasional missteps he made after falling for Thomas, because that was believable too.
I thought it was interesting how Sav was fine with his sexual preferences, even at that time. It was so different from Thomas… It was SO HARD to read about the way they had to hide their love in that time period. I mean, I know it’s hard to be gay in the here and now, but I can’t even FATHOM how hard it would have been back then. BUT their romance was so sweet and beautiful, and I just truly felt their connection to one another.
This book truly took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. I had no idea where we were going to end up, but I was satisfied when I got there.
On a side note, I will admit that this book didn’t feel young adult to me. It wasn’t that it was explicit or anything, it just didn’t feel “teen” to me. But honestly, as an adult reader, I’m not sure I know what YA is anymore.
So yeah. I went into this one with trepidation, and it surprised me in all the best ways.
When I started reading the novel, I was reading chapters flipping back and forth between Thomas and Sav's diary entries. They hadn't met yet, and I wasn't sure when they were going to meet. All I knew was that they were both magicians apprentices and that the magicians the boys worked for were competing against each other. Then, they cross paths. Thomas starts wanting to talk to the mysterious stranger who keeps coming to his shows, and Sav needs to know how Thomas and Neville pull off their disappearing trick. Sav never plans to fall for Thomas, and Thomas definitely doesn't plan on falling for him. But they do, and Sav has to decide whether to abandon his master and stay with his magic boy, or to reveal Thomas' secrets and ruin his life.
I haven't read any LGBT Victorian romance novels, so I didn't know what to expect once I saw how romantic that this was getting. It was interesting to see their relationship dynamic, and how almost freeing it was for them. Without the internet, they were able to keep more under the radar of the local homophobic citizens. They could just stay in their flat or go on dates at night, and barely anybody would be out to see them. It seemed like a normal YA romance novel, except I thought that Thomas and Sav had more chemistry than most YA couples usually do.
Thomas has magic, but I felt that his magic could have been explored a bit more. The book never explains why Thomas has magic, how he found out that he had magic, and how he was able to use/control his powers. The story was still long without this bit of filler, but I would have liked to know a little bit more about how his powers specifically worked.
Sav also has a "rags-to-riches" backstory that is mentioned a few times in the novel, but is again never explored in depth. Since the book was set up in diary format, I think that there were opportunities for Sav to reflect on his past more.
Even though the book didn't discuss the characters' backstories as much, the characters' current personalities were developed in amazing ways. Thomas was a shy apprentice, but he got stronger as he fell harder for Sav and continued to help Neville in his performances. The outcome of the performances reflected his emotional state. When he was upset, the performance didn't go well. When he was happily in love, the performances went perfectly. Same with Sav. He started the story being strong, stoic and refusing to open up to Thomas. He had to learn how to break out of his shell, opening up to and trusting Thomas.
There was just so much depth to this book. I have never read a book about show business or magic shows just like this one. I would literally recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction, or YA LGBTQ+ romance.
I received an advance copy of this book, and this is my voluntary review.