Thursday, July 31, 2014

Illusions of Fate

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (a part of my Comic-Con horde) is one of those rare, special books you wish you could live in every single day. Yes, it is really that good. Better, even.

I met Kiersten at a Wonder-Con book signing last spring and fell in love with her enchanting, atmospheric In the Shadows, co-created with Jim DiBartolo. Needless to say, when I got my hands on the galley of the Illusions, I inhaled it in one seating. My only complaint about the book was its length. Too short. Too, too short. I would've loved to keep reading. And reading. And reading some more. Because this book is pure MAGIC. Charming, witty, heart-breaking, romantic. It reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle -- an old and true favorite -- with a shade of Jane Eyre, or, perhaps, Pride and Prejudice. The story has it all: a clever, strong, independent heroine; a dashing, tormented hero; a quirky, endearing sidekick (love you, Sir Bird); a creepy and cruel villain, and magic -- lots and lots of curious, strange, thrilling magic. 

On top of everything else, Kiersten has a gift for giving her readers a striking visual experience; as I was reading the book, my fingers itched to illustrate the scenes -- the ball at the lush hothouse of a Conservatory; the sparkling, vivacious symphony; the gloomy, misty park besieged by crows. Each scene set a unique mood, adding color and character to the original, vibrant world of magic, secrets and danger. And the shadows. Swoon. How I wish we could have this happen in real life. 

The story begins with Jessamine, who has left her native tropical island of Melei to attend school in a dreary, proper Albion (reminiscent of Victorian England.) With her dark hair and complexion Jessa doesn't fit in among the pale "civilized" Albions and has to deal with prejudice and harassment, still, she is determined to make the best of the situation. She excels at her studies and works hard as a maid at a ritzy hotel to pay for her school. When a chance meeting with the gorgeous Lord Finley draws her into Albion's secret world of privilege, magic and danger, Jessamine refuses to play by the rules of others and sets out to discover as much as she can about the forbidden art of spells. Soon, she is caught up in an ongoing feud between Finn and the powerful Lord Downpike, who wants to uncover the secret of Finn's magic, a feud that threatens to destroy not only Albion, but also Melei. Jessamine must use every bit of her wits to stop her enemies and save everyone she loves before it's too late.

Jessamine, Jessa, is easily one one my favorite YA heroines: she's determined, spirited, witty, intelligent, feisty and brave. She is secure in her own skin, stands firmly by her beliefs (and her friends), refuses to play a damsel in distress, and, all in all, kicks some major magic ass. 

On his part, Finn is the perfect hero: selfless, kind, sweet, courageous, loyal. He treats Jessa with respect, understands her, supports her and appreciates not only her exotic beauty, but her intelligence and her personality as well. He cares for Jessa and is deeply protective of her, but never controlling or possessive. More importantly, he lets her make her own choices. Their dynamic is wonderful; Kiersten takes time to develop their relationship, and I love seeing their flirtatious banter turn into a raw and honest expression of real feelings. 

And, of course, let's not forget Eleanor, the girl's all sorts of awesome. She's a gem of a character -- wonderfully scheming and funny and gossipy and surprisingly bad-ass.

Favorite scene:

“You made it to do with her, though, didn’t you?” Eleanor looks pointedly at the ground where my shadow pools at my feet. “Can I see it? Wiggle around or something. I’ve never actually seen someone shadowed before! It’s so romantic!”

“It is nothing of the sort! It’s…” I glance at Finn, who is avoiding my eyes. “ He was just spying, and…” Romantic? Preposterous. But suddenly I am desperate to understand. “What does it mean? He wouldn’t explain it to me.”

“Open your mouth, Eleanor, and I will cut out your tongue and use it as fertilizer for my personal herb garden.”

“But she should know!” Eleanor whines, pulling my back to the couch across from Finn. “It’s adorable.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Roadtrips and Rainbows...

In literature I would likely be pegged as an "unreliable narrator" for my tendency to remember ONLY the colorful side of thin...