Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?
Anna herself was a wonderfully crafted character that I found myself rooting as she faced her challenges with her heritage, her potential in the world of magic shows and performance, and her venture into the world of romance that most sixteen-year-olds are wont to make mistakes and learn down the road of what kind of significant other they are looking for in a relationship. Even her relationship with her mother brings a sparkle to this story, because most parental relationships in YA always are absent or the teenagers are in strict rebellion. But Anna loves her mother and the bond between the two of them are what really helps weave this story together, despite Anna’s constant belief that her mother is delirious for the spotlight, and learns that there is more to her mother than she knew. That growth between the two of them, especially the constant growth of Anna’s character, makes Born of Illusion a well-rounded novel with spice, mystery, and flare all vividly painted in a vintage NYC that I lust to travel back in time to.
Final Summation: Anyone who needs a new take on magic, or just wants the nostalgia of magic tricks and not the ones that surround faeries and the whole lot out of most fantasy books, BORN OF ILLUSION definitely is down your alley. A spectacular female protagonist trying to figure out her heritage, magic tricks, and unexpected romance, and realistic character development with Anna made this novel so much more than I had expected before diving into the book. I’m excited for the second novel to come out this July.