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?
I’ve been really excited to read Born of Illusion for quite some time now. Who doesn’t want to read a book about magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920′s New York City? How cool! Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. If you follow my review, you know by now that I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction. This book was not an exception. While some of the magic was pretty cool, I found it to be just too boring for my taste.
One thing that this book really has going for it is that the main character, Anna, is very likeable. Anna was the reason I was trying to make it through the book. She was strong, powerful, yet still a nervous child trying to make it in the world. The other characters in the story were also very likeable or interesting, but they weren’t enough to carry the story.
Here was my thing with Born of Illusion: There wasn’t enough magic or spark to it. There was mystery…but not enough. I found myself not caring what was going to happen next. I didn’t care who Anna’s father was or what would happen to Anna’s mother. I didn’t care if anyone was killed off or if something bad happened. I just didn’t care. I only read half of Born of Illusion before I set it down, but there weren’t really any action scenes or “aha!” moments. There were a couple cool scenes involving magic, but nothing that really knocked my socks off. It was just kind of bland.
Fans of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd and Pantomime by Laura Lam should enjoy Born of Illusion.
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: June 11th, 2013
Rating: N/A not rating due to DNF
Teaser Quote: “”You’re quite good–for a girl.” “Thank you,” I tell him, ignoring the girl remark. If I argued with every male magician who made a snide comment about my gender, I’d never have the time to do magic. I prefer to outperform them on stage, where it really matters.”
Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.
As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.
The Unnaturalists is one of those books that starts out really strong, and you begin to think that it’s going to be the next big thing. As soon as I read page one, I was hooked. I had never read a steampunk book before, and I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that steampunk was a wayyy different genre than I was used to.
I would say that The Unnaturalists stayed really good for about 3-4 chapters. After that, it started to sink downhill. I remember being really upset, because I expected so much out of this book. I wanted it to be brilliant. What I got was tolerable.
I never really connected with the main characters, Vespa and Syrus, which was a major problem. When I settle down to read a book, I need to connect and have a solid relationship with the main characters, if not all of the characters. This never happened at all. I had such a bad connection with the characters that, a month down the road, I barely even remember the book. I just know that The Unnaturalists and I did not get along.
Tiffany Trent had a brilliant concept when she came up with The Unnaturalists, but it didn’t quite work for me. This makes me nervous to read more books in the steampunk genre. Maybe that specific genre just is not for me? Or is it this specific book? That is a question that I am going to have to look into.
Overall, I would not recommend this book. I ended up finding it slightly boring and very forgettable.
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Teaser Quote: “Syrus waited for only a moment, looking back toward the dark entrance. He shifted from foot to foot before he finally opened his mouth.
Bayne held up his hand. “Take my sleeve.”
Syrus grasped his magic-stained lace cuff.
And then everything–heart, breath, blood, thought–was ripped apart.
In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling – or dangerous.
Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her “straynge band of mysfits” have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him…for the life of the girl Jasper loves.
One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei’s neck tightens. And tightens.
The thrilling sequel to The Girl in the Steel Corset picks up right where the last book left off. After Jasper is apprehended by bounty hunters, his friends journey to America in an effort to rescue him and clear his name. But his friends soon realize it’s not the authorities who have Jasper, been an even more threatening enemy, one who knows Jasper’s weaknesses and exploits them in exchange for a powerful device that might endanger all of them.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl in the Steel Corset, the second book in The Steampunk Chronicles blows the first away. I enjoyed every minute of it and found it physically impossible to put the book down. The action is fast-paced and utterly relentless. It’s been awhile since I’ve read such a cinematic action-packed novel and I’d forgotten how much I missed this style of writing. Each character is fierce in their own way, so they each get their own shining moments in Clockwork Collar. Plus, we get a handful of new, equally fierce characters that give our beloved characters a run for their money.
The action is easily my favorite part of this series. I’m addicted to well-rendered fight scenes and Kady Cross’s descriptions are top-notch. I love that she points out all the differences and nuances that separate the characters; Sam’s brute strength, Finley’s penchant for literal fist-fighting, Jasper’s love of pistols, and Mei’s thorough background in martial arts. These small details not only act as characterization, but also set Cross’s books apart from all others. But of course, Cross also accomplishes this with her inclusion of steampunk elements. When I first picked up this series, I was wary because it was steampunk. Some steampunk authors bite off more than they can chew and the result is remarkably dissatisfying. But Kady Cross proves that when steampunk is done well, it’s absolutely amazing. And enthralling. And andrenaline-spiking.
Of course, the character development is so, so impressive. Now that both halves of Finley’s personality have been united, you’d think she’d feel less conflicted. But she still suffers from an understandable internal turmoil. She has to accept that this darker part of her is her and she’s not sure just how much she should give into it — and what she’d have to sacrifice if she does. But she cannot deny that a part of her is drawn to darkness and danger (which is why part of her is attracted to Jack Dandy), and Griffin can’t deny that that part of Finley leaves him unbelievably worried and distrustful.
Speaking of Jack and Griffin, I’m a sucker for love triangles and it was one of my favorite aspects of the first book in The Steampunk Chronicles. Oddly enough, the lack of development of the love triangle is one of my favorite aspects of this book. Finley, Griffin, Sam, and Emily travel to New York to rescue Jasper, which means that Finley leaves Jack Dandy at home in London. Therefore, her friendship with Griffin is what’s truly developed in this book and Cross certainly takes her time drawing out this relationship. I can’t even express how much I truly appreciate this. Finley and Griffin are such good friends and they both have valid reasons for being afraid of taking their relationship to a romantic level (Griffin more so than Finley). But the romantic tension is always there, especially when they argue, and their desire for each other practically sizzles off the page. Plus, Emily and Sam are completely adorable together and satisfy the “relationship quota” for the book.
There’s no one I wouldn’t recommend this series to. The inventions are extraordinary, the romantic tension is palpable, the plot is thrilling and unpredictable. The Girl in the Clockwork Collar is, quite simply, utterly engrossing. I love these characters and, once again, I can’t wait to fall back into their world. And for any science nerds, Nikola Tesla plays a pretty strong role throughout the book — a fact I was ecstatically surprised to discover. I am a huge Tesla fan and his inclusion as a character made me love the book that much more, if possible.
Publication Date: May 2012
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Source: Provided by Publisher
Teaser Quote: “Before, she could have blamed this sort of behavior on her darker half, but that was no longer the case. Griffin has helped her begin to unite her two sides, and now she was no longer one or the other, but both. Now it was up to her to decide what sort of person she wanted to be.“