ANNA VAN HOUSEN HAS A SECRET. A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage shows and seances, 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 power 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. As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she's ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna's visions merely illusions? 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, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York --- and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.
Hardcover, 373 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Balzer & Bray (first published January 1st 2013)
Source: Publisher for an honest review
Three and a half stars: An interesting foray into magic and spiritualism during the roaring twenties!
Anna steps onto the stage, reveling in the audience's applause. It is when she is on stage performing that she is at home. Anna is a gifted illusionist who has a big secret. She can truly sense people's emotions and see the future. She and her mother have settled in New York, after years of running and being on the road. Things seem to finally be looking up for Anna, until the dark visions begin assaulting her. These visions start the same day she meets the mysterious boy Cole. Anna's frightening visions indicate someone is going to try to harm her mother. Is it because someone is onto her mother's fraudulent seances? Can Anna stop her terrifying vision from coming true?
What I Liked:
- I enjoyed the focus of this book being on spiritualism, mediums, magicians and seances that were all the rage during this era. There is a great deal of information in this book on how so called mediums tricked and swindled people into believing they were in contact with spirits. I liked learning all about the tricks behind seances and illusions.
- This book presents an intriguing mystery. Anna is bombarded with chilling visions of the future. She finds herself suddenly surrounded by people who want to supposedly help her control her gifts, but who can she trust? It was fun watching Anna try to find out who was out to hurt her and who wanted to help. She trusts no one, not even her mother, and I liked the thick tension and mystery.
- Harry Houdini makes an appearance, and I was surprised to learn that he spent a great deal of time debunking fraudulent mediums. I had no idea that he wrote books to help ferret out swindlers, I thought he was only famous for his escape illusions.
- At the center of this book is the difficult relationship that Anna maintains with her mother. Anna and her mother perform in a magic show together, but over time her mother becomes aware that Anna's talents are exceeding her own, and she cannot accept this fact gracefully. Anna's mother is jealous and cold and quite the villain. She is a character that you love to hate as you wonder if she really and truly does love her daughter. This mother daughter relationship is fraught with tension and mistrust, and I found it to be entertaining and interesting.
- This is a coming of age story as Anna is trying to come to terms with her gifts, her identity and what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Her mother has long told her that she is the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini, but whether that is true or not is a mystery. She longs to know the truth of her parentage all while trying to control her sensory gifts. The one thing Anna wants to do is perform, but her mother is always holding her back. This book tells how Anna learns to break free and find her footing on her path to her future.
- I loved the setting of the roaring twenties. This book has flappers, bootleggers, mob men, illusionists, spiritualists and more. I loved the slang and dialogue that was pertinent to the time and I thought the author did a great job of bringing this era to life.
And The Not So Much:
- The romance left much to be desired. At first, it appears that this book is headed into love triangle territory as Anna meets two boys Owen and Cole. Both boys show interest in her, and she seems to enjoy spending time with both. However as time goes on, it quickly becomes apparent as to whom Anna is really attracted. Even though Anna seems to have chosen her suitor by the middle of the book, the romance never really takes off. It dances around as the two parties continue to mistrust each other. It is lukewarm at best.
- Parts of the book were a bit predictable such as who the bad guy was. It is obvious right away who the villain is, even though the author does manage to plant plenty of seeds of doubt, I wasn't deterred. There are also hints as to who the accomplice is so I wasn't surprised at the end. This isn't a big issue, I was able to piece it together but it isn't glaringly obvious.
- I was a bit disappointed as far in the whole Harry Houdini story line. Anna's mother claims that Anna is Harry Houdini's illegitimate daughter. There is a great deal of focus spent on Anna trying to unravel whether or not she really is Houdini's daughter. At times, it seems she is not and then there are other clues indicating she might be. By the end, it is still unresolved.
- I found myself wishing that there had been a bit more discussion on the seances. It seems that people were being arrested for putting on fraudulent seances, and I wanted to know more. At what point did the law get involved in putting a stop to these seances? What was the punishment for someone caught swindling through spiritualism? This is an aspect of history that I am not familiar with and I would certainly like to know more about how the law got intervened and if this was the beginning of the end for the spiritual movement.
Born of Illusion is an interesting and exciting historical tale that brings to life the spiritual movement during the roaring twenties. I enjoyed taking a trip back in time and learning more about the behind the scenes activities of seances and magic shows. This is a fun and engaging story that I can recommend to those who want something a bit different in the YA paranormal genre.
"My chest tightens as my heart grows tender and bruised for him."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.