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May 16, 2015

Steampunk Sundays: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Series: Standalone (?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow
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.


Bloggy Friend's Review: The Social Potato









Talk Supe


53 comments:

  1. Well, that stinks. I love the whole parallel universe thing, but not sure about this. I need depth and good character development.

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    1. Sorry there's not much character development here

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  2. I do not think this is the book for me

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    1. I don't think it'll be the book for a lot of people

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  3. Oh yes I remember seeing this one and thinking that the cover was so beautiful but the reviews weren't that good so I passed, I'm sorry it was the case for you as well

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    1. Yeah, hard lesson in being a cover whore

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  4. Wonderful in depth review Braine, I'm really interested in the concept of this novel but it seems like the world building wasn't defined very well, especially for such a scientific concept.

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    1. World building and myths are important in any fantasy book. If its not there, you might as well write historical Kr contemporary

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  5. I'm sorry it was disappointing, the cover is lovely :/

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    1. My friends daughter who's 13 might have better fun with it

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  6. Yikes. Steampunk has never been my forte, so this book was not even in my horizon. It sounds like a rightful mess, to be honest.

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  7. Such a pretty cover- too bad that the story wasn't meatier. I tend to overthink everything, so I may have to give this a pass, lol.

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    1. Its hard not to overthink when it comes to fantasy. Suspending disbelief takes a lot of work lol

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  8. After reading your review, SW I'm glad that I didn't request this one. I love the cover for this one very much. Not every book is going to be good or right for us. I love steampunk when it's done right.

    Grace @ Books of Love

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    1. I will love any book when its done right and at par with my taste :D

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  9. Parallel worlds usually baffle me so this one probably isn't for me anyway. That cover is gorgeous though.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. You and me both, I cant go full on with super science-y books. There's some that I managed to grasp but generally I cant get into those books

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  10. Ahhh, once again you dash my hopes with your hope-dashing scythe! I had great, GREAT hopes for this one - dang! Informative review (she grudgingly admitted) <3

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    1. You're welcome but try a sample, it might work for you and catch you in the right mood/time.

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  11. Not everyone is going to like every book they read.

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    1. That's true. It cant be rainbows and glitters every time

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  12. Hmmm... I have been seeing this one around, and I didn't realize it was supposed to be steampunk. It sounds like a godo enough read, but I am sure that I would be bothered by the problems with the world building.

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    1. I nitpick when it comes to world building. Its the thing that makes a fantasy unique, otherwise it'll just be like any other book around

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  13. I have this one on my wish list. I was so looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Don't take my word foe.it and don't swear it off. We have different tastes in books and you just might end up loving this one.

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  14. Oh dear! I hear or see 'fantasy' and I think rich worldbuilding. It's so disappointing when that's not true. At least the action part of the story came through for you.

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  15. Oh man that would be a coverwhore problem. I was thinking how beautiful! But I'd definitely need more to the read I think. Bummer!

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    1. It's what roped me in too! The darn cover!

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  16. The concept sounds really good. Bummer this is how the read went. Action is nice, sure, but steampunk without some properly juicy world&character-building doesn't much work for me, at least :(

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    1. exactly!! World building is a must to fantasy

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  17. Aw man, fantasy novels either have complicated world building or lack thereof. Though, I'm still curious to read this. The honest review is well appreciated! Great review, Braine! :D

    Blessie @ Mischievous Reads

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    1. I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

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  18. Sad that it wasn’t all that it was supposed to be! I’ll have to see for myself though–got this one waiting for me to review... :P Great review!

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  19. I've been wanting to grab this one up! The worldbuilding sounded fascinating, so I'm a bit disappointed it lacked some depth for even a YA. Still it sounds like it was an enjoyable read. I'm going to keep this one in mind for when I need something to escape to.
    Thanks for the great review, Braine :)

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  20. I started this book yesterday and haven't advance much. I'm not liking it much.

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  21. Meh, yeah, not sure if this would work for me either. I would want more explanation about the Illusionist.

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    1. It's such a great concept but I'd like to know HOW they got these illusionists

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  22. That sucks! Normally I'd have jumped to read this one, but with character and plot development being major issues, I think I'll pass:-(

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    1. Don't take my word for it. try a sample, it might work for you

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  23. I have a copy of this but I've been hearing the same thing elsewhere so I'm not rushing to pick it up. Maybe one of these days.

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  24. Hmmph. So I'm usually not the type for a steampunk read (except for Cassandra Clare, obviously!), but this was one of the few that I actually added to my Goodreads TBR for curiosity's sake. I'm sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy it too much! But hey, parallel universes and sci-fi elements? I think that that's exactly what I'm looking for, though it certainly isn't expected to be incorporated in this novel. Fantastic review, and good luck with your next read! :)

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    1. Thank you and I hope you end up loving this way more than I did!

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  25. Oh man, that's too bad that it needs work. It's a beautiful cover. But yeah, Hercules had to work for it, this dude can, too.

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  26. Too bad that the world is not developed deeply enough. That alone can be a deal breaker.

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  27. Even MG books should be more centered towards growth and not action only - if it's a really fantastic read. The one-dimensional characters just would have made me put this book down. I read books to fall in love with characters and their stories therefore the characters must be interesting.

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