Release Date: May 19, 2015
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Steampunk
What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.
Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.
Venen, a rabid disease that only affects women, is ravaging Arthursian (basically London). The death toll is high and rising by the minute. Desperate to find a cure, the King came to Dr. Gouden, Jonathan's father, to find a cure. But the King did not just bring with him a request for help, he also brough Venen to Jonathan's family and now his sister, Hannah, and his mother has contracted the disease. Desperate to save them, Jonathan came to the last perso he should be seeking aid from. Lady Florel is an enemy of the empire and the only one who holds the anti-toxin to Venen. The price might be too high for Jonathan but he will do anything in his power to save his family and the realm.
Oi vey! Reviewing ILLUSIONARIUM by Heather Dixon's, I feel, is causing me to splice. Let me start with ILLUSIONARIUM is a very imaginative and scientific novel. It deals with parallel universes, the power of thought, and how our dreams are possible if only one is determined enough to fulfill it.
Unfortunately, how HDixon imagined the novel didn't exactly turn out that way. Let me start with ILLUSIONARIUM books at least. The world and magic involved is so complex, building it alone should've taken up most of ILLUSIONARIUM. The story was so lean that the universe she created and its limitations weren't defined. Remember, the premise is, an illusionist is able to create and build a world, or multiple worlds, given the right conditions. That said, she didn't provide sufficient mythology to explain what an illusionist is and the extent of their powers. Is it an inherent capability? Can someone train to become one? I have my theories based on the narrative but I can't tell you for sure because HDixon didn't quite definte it.
In addition, ILLUSIONARIUM felt more like sci-fi/fantasy than Steampunk fantasy as some of the early critic reviews imply. The novel is fast paced and an easy read, but due to the lack of crucial details, the events went from 0-100 in a blink. Jonathan is an illusionist and became the best one there is in a hot minute. I'm good with "gifts" and prophesies and all that, but I expect the hero to work for his title somehow. I mean, Hercules has his 9 labors, what were Jonathan's feats before he became great?
On the surface, I enjoyed ILLUSIONARIUM. I got into the chase, the fight scenes, the confrontations, even the scientific notations fascinated me when those things bores me in general. However, ILLUSIONARIUM had me wanting to read the deleted scenes because the novel lacked depth, the characters felt one dimensional, and the resolution felt so simple compared to the complicated plot and conflict. There were moments where I seriously though "so this must be what doing acid feels like," because of the absence of fine details.
That said, if ILLUSIONARIUM were MG-YA, then I think I could give it a pass and ignore its flaws and take it at face value. MG fantasy in general are more action-centric than character development. And as this seems to be a standalone, the lack of character growth might be understandable so it can give way to the development of the plot. But as that's not the case with ILLUSIONARIUM promising a lot of things: YA-Steampunk, intricate premise, spectacular plot devices, etc.; the novel just scratched the surface IMHO. I'm not completely disappointed by this, ILLUSIONARIUM has some good things going for it and I am NOT discouraging you from reading it either. Just don't overthink things and I think you'll find yourself enjoying the novel much more than I did.
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