Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
Published June 11th 2013 by Balzer + Bray
Review copy received through the publisher
Born of Illusion is a lovely mix of paranormal and historical with interesting character dynamics but a rather weak plot.
Together with her mother Anna has a magic and spiritual act; only her mother doesn’t know that Anna’s powers are for real. She can feel people’s emotions, see the future and converse with ghosts. She has to be careful with her secret, but it’s getting harder since her powers are growing and they get harder to hide.
Anna and her mother have a deliciously difficult relationship. Her mom is selfish, ambitious and a jealous person. She’s not exactly the best mother around, but she still loves her daughter in her own way. Anna’s relationship with her mom was realistic and interesting to read about. They both seemed very lifelike to me, and Anna’s conflicting thoughts rung true to me, even though her ambivalence seemed to annoy some other reviewers.
Born of Illusion is set in New York during the twenties. For me the time period was pretty convincing, with mentions of period clothing and the glitzy life-style, but I wasn’t all that impressed with Ms Brown’s New York. It could have been set in any US city as far as I was concerned; there are some mentions of restaurants and bars, but none of characteristic New York landmarks that are needed for authenticity.
The weakest part of Born of Illusion is the plot. Before the real exciting part even got started, I knew what was going on and who the bad guy was. There is no amazing revelation, just a soft realisation on Anna’s part who’s after her. If you are used to pay attention to clues the twist is glaringly obvious from the start.
Deflated plot aside, Born of Illusion is an enjoyable paranormal read. There are two love interests but the word “love” is never uttered (which is a good thing in my book) and there are plenty of juicy séances and flapper parties to keep you entertained.
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?
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