Born of Illusion is about Anna Van Housen the daughter of Marguerite Van Housen, a famous medium, who has just moved to New York to begin performing. Anna is also possibly the illegitimate daughter of Houdini. The problem is Anna’s mother is not a real medium and Anna is. There are also mysterious secret societies, swoony 1920’s boys, and genuine magic.
Why then did I not rate Born of Illusion higher? Because despite an interesting synopsis the plot fails to deliver. The beginning was exciting and so was the ending but in the middle there was a huge lull in action where I felt the main character kept repeating the same information over again in different ways.
Anna is likable enough, because of her mother’s profession and personality Anna has been forced to be the adult. She has stood in her mother’s shadow performing as the opening magical act at her mother’s medium performances. I hated the relationship Anna had with her mother. Brown made Anna’s mother look petty, annoying, and unreasonable then tried to redeem the mother’s character and completely failed. I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and a longing feeling that Anna should have stood up to her mother rather then passive aggressively fighting with her.
I also was not a huge fan of the romance in this novel. There was a sort-of love triangle between Cole, Anna, and Owen. Cole was supposed to be the guy we are rooting for but he was a total wet blanket, nothing about him was fun or interesting and the way he treated Anna bothered me! He never gave straight answers (in order to create tension apparently), he gave her warnings, and I felt like I could just play insert generic male lead here. There nothing about him that interested me. Owen was the quintessential young, fun, 1920’s male but there was so much foreshadowing that you were never allowed to like him, Anna didn’t even give him a chance.
All of the foreshadowing in this novel made the twist at the end painfully predictable and that disappointed me. If certain events had been left out then the twist would have been wonderfully executed and surprising. Instead, as a reader, I felt talked down to at the end of the novel. The author explained every little detail so that I could put the puzzle together. In trial techniques I learned that the jury likes it when attorneys lay out a puzzle and allows the jurors make the connections. It gives them the sense that they’ve figured something out and it connects them to the case. People don’t like being told what to believe or told they need to make connections. I feel that this is the same case for readers.
Overall, Born of Illusion was a middle of the road read for me. I liked certain aspects of the story including the setting, and the fact that the author has researched the subject. If the entire novel had been like the beginning and ending then I would have liked it more, unfortunately the middle really dragged. I am a sucker though and will be picking up the next book in this series for the sheer fact that it deals with Rasputin who is one of my favorite historical figures.