Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Born of Illusion
Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion, #1
Release Date: June 11th, 2013
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Rating: 4 stars
Word Rating: I like you... a lot.
Reviewed by: Melanie

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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.

'I was thirteen the first time I broke my mother out of jail. After that it got easier, though I have to admit, even I had trouble getting the door unlocked whole hanging off the back of a paddy wagon. Is not an experience I wish to repeat.'

What a pleasant surprise historical fiction can be when executed beautifully. After the disappointments I've had lately in this genre, I was delighted to be once welcomed into an olden day New York world which reminded me greatly of Libba Bray's The Diviners. Born of Illusion was a strategically drawn novel with elements of suspense, magic and romance.

Anna Van Housen has been breaking her mother out of jail ever since the age of thirteen. Three years later, she travels along with her mother- reclaimed medium of the 1920's--performing séances and stage shows in front of all types of audiences alike. However, there are a few issues up Anna's sleeve. Especially now that something strange has stirred up in her ever since she met a young man. As Anna tries to hide her gift from her defiant mother, who holds a coldness between them, Anna comes to question everything she has ever been told. Was that young man--Cole--to have something to do with it? Someone is trying to catch Anna and her mother, but who?

Brown effortlessly creates loveable characters and unforgettable relationships throughout the entire story. I admired Anna's voice the most. Without a proper mother to aid her in more coming of age issues and basic skills, Anna comes out as understandable, confused and shaky. While this whole mystery- suspense beats through the novel, this is also about a girl adjusting in the adult world, growing and slowly covering up those blemishes. Additionally, her personality stands out in the 1920's as it had touches of humour, fieriness and adventurousness. It's outlandish and subtle at the same time.

Our mother and daughter relationship is like no other. It's deep meaning and messed up past is a contributing factor to this tension that spreads between the two of them. But there's also the jealousy from Anna's mother. This jealously is because of Anna's great magician abilities which are much more extensive. Nonetheless, as the story unravels by, we delve further in and soon become to comprehend this distance that begins to cure itself slowly near the end. Entrancingly written, this is one you'll never want to miss out on.

Our romance here is a bit like a contrast of MG and YA, or also could be marked as a subplot--where I used to believe it belonged, NOT the main drive of the novel. I loved the realism, cuteness and pace of this aspect which flourished and hoped along, brightening the dark suspense that trembles here.

What I was disappointed about where two minor things. Firstly, if the romance was the best paced aspect, the pace of the beginning was the worst- as in relatively slow. Soon enough, it got redeemed as our mystery was thrown in. Secondly, the ending was rather predictable. It's another one of those 'who was the culprit?' issues. Knowing its a difficult topic to accomplish with shining stars, Brown did a decent job.

All in all, Born of Illusion was ideally a novel entwined with atmospheric magic, romance and a girl living in a new world trying to understand fresh topics. But ultimately, this also contains a lovely connection between a mother and daughter that may not be so perfect as it seems on stage. Highly recommended to lovers of The Diviners or other historical fictions.


  1. I like you you put it... outlandish and subtle. Hmm, yes. I am a die hard for magic books- they are seriously the most imaginative genre I've ever come across. Good to know that the author had fantastic writing skills- espeically when describing the mother and daughter relationship. Something I look forward to!

    Brilliant reivew, Mel. :)

    1. Thanks, love. Magic is a difficult genre to get right and Brown did a pretty magnificent job at it.

  2. Coming of ageish stories are some of my favourites, always refreshing and beautifully written. And this is the type of romance I'm looking for as well, I really hate it when romance dominates the plot- ugh. This one sounds pretty decent. Awesome review, Melanie

    1. Eeep, the romance here is sweet and real. Defintely a cross of MG and YA in a way as the MC is still a little younger than the normal one in YA fic. I look forward to your thoughts if you end up reading this!

  3. I love the mother/daughter relationship too-so complicated and fraught with emotions!


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