Genre: YA – Fantasy, Steampunk
Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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.
Just before my 2016 “shut down” on buying any new books due to the 2016 TBR Reading Challenge, I received one of those Goodreads emails that includes new books which are specifically picked out for you due to what you’ve read in the past. Those emails are evil, and probably half my problem. Anyhow, Illusionarium was on that email. It was there because I have read and loved Heather Dixon’s writing in the past, so of course I NEED to know when she releases a new book, right?
I don’t always fall for those emails. But I’m a sucker for great covers, and let me tell you – I don’t know who Heather Dixon is working with on her covers, but they are both simply amazing. And truth be told – if this cover wasn’t so perfect, I wouldn’t have been buying this book on December 31, 2015, right before I was suppose to be cutting myself off from new purchases so that I could make a dent in the 450+ books already on my kindle/nook/whatever reading app.
What I Loved: This book takes imagination. I took LOADS of imagination to write (I wish I had half this imagination!) and it takes imagination to read – thankfully I’m good at that part! About halfway through reading Illusionarium, I stopped and read a few reviews on Goodreads, and I found a mixed response. But I think the biggest problem with the book is that it is weirdness on top of weirdness – and if you weren’t following from the beginning, you are probably going to have a problem continuing to follow…. I didn’t. I think that the setting (an AIR CITY!!), the illusions, the schism (ß you must read to understand) – everything was so interesting and perfect. If this book were a movie, it would no doubt be directed by Tim Burton. I imagine all kinds of bright colors, but also that gothic darkness that Burton is known for as well.
The illusions (this isn’t really a spoiler, right – given the title?!) were another element that I was so in love with. They weren’t illusions as in, you just imagine it and there you were. You had to create them, as in, understand the science behind what you were making before it became real. It was cool that Jonathan was smart, and shy and not your typical main character at all…but because of this, he was awesome at these illusions, despite his self confidence issue.
I loved the steampunk feel about the book, but also how it wasn’t driven by it’s ‘steampunkiness.’ There wasn’t the constant mention of gadget and devices, and it wasn’t overly Victorian in theme either. It was just kind of there, just another layer.
Okay – I’ve talked about the world and around the theme of the book – but I also really liked the story. It was layered with twists and turns, a few of them I was able to guess as the story progressed, a couple I didn’t guess until closer to the end, and some that took me by surprise. I like that. I like being surprised just as much as I like being able to foretell a story based on the foreshadowing. I think that is one of the things that keeps me engaged while reading, trying to figure out what’s going to happen because of the hints that authors throw out there.
Not So Much: Soo I LOVED the story, and the story line. And I even really liked the characters, so this little bit is nothing but a drop in the book. I really wish that the romantic aspect of the book would have been a little bit more there. I like a little bit of romance, you know? It wasn’t the purpose of the book, but I don’t think a little bit more would have taken away from it either. It was done well, but I just I don’t know…it left me wanting.