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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas

The Illusionists invites comparisons to the two magician films that came out ten years ago, The Prestige and The Illusionist. Like those films, this book delves into the behind-the-scenes lives and competitions between magicians and maintains an air of mysterious romance. From the beginning, the author finds magic and wonder in the sooty, hungry streets of Victorian London.

The descriptions for this book tend to focus on Eliza. However, Eliza is not the first character we meet. It takes quite a few pages to get to her, and she remains aloof for some time. This story is really an ensemble piece, with each character as unusual and well developed as the others. It's not long before the performing dwarf Carlo and the haunted magician Devil fall in love with Eliza. She's already being pursued by Devil's childhood friend Jasper, but the triangle is treated so subtly, it doesn't get stale. Perhaps the saving grace is that Eliza clearly favors Devil, but doesn't veer from her stubborn intention to take care of herself.

The reader roots for Devil's schemes and Eliza's goals and boos the bad guys off the stage. The author has done her research and has a talent for evocative detail. This is sure to be a favorite for any reader with a passing interest in Victorian England or the golden age of magicians.