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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.

361 pages, Hardcover

First published May 19, 2015

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About the author

Heather Dixon Wallwork

5 books1,671 followers
Heather Dixon Wallwork has been a story artist for Disney, a writer for HarperCollins, and currently works as an animation director in Salt Lake City. She is the author of the books "Entwined" and "Illusionarium". You can find more of her stories and comics at www.story-monster.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 611 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,727 reviews1,279 followers
April 17, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“Illusionists are rare, which means illusionariums are even rarer.”

This was an interesting fantasy story, but I did lose interest a bit towards the end.

Jonathan was a character who tried his best to find a cure for the strange fever that was killing all the women in the country, but he was easily led at times! Thinking that a competitor might help you, is maybe a little too trusting!

“You stupid idiot,” he rasped. “You let divinity tell you what to illusion, didn’t you.”

The storyline in this started out quite well, and I liked the use of the strange ‘fantillium’ and all the things that they were able to do with it. There were some twists and turns in the tale and Jonathan seemed to get himself in bigger and bigger messes, I did lose interest at some point though, and I wanted things to be solved!

“Well Jonathan,” said Lady Florel, beaming. “Shall we fetch that cure?”

The ending to this was okay, and I was happy with the happily ever after, I just didn’t expect the story to drag so much after the half-way mark.
6.5 out of 10
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
January 16, 2015
Ah, Illusionarium, that new book coming to town with such a bad-ass name that simply screams wonder and magic and romance. With a cover like that, I had imagined myself fantastically flying through parallel dimensions while eyeing the handsome rose tucked behind my ear that a gentleman in a dashing tuxedo has given me.

...but alas, no... upon finishing this book, my fancy image shattered to tiny pieces, leaving only bitter disappointment behind. This makes me horribly sad, because I really do want to love this book. I've only heard great things about Heather Dixon and wanted to experience the magic of her words myself.

When I learned this would have a male hero, I was absolutely ecstatic. The Young Adult demographic is full of female heroines and we rarely see things and situations unfold from the eyes of the opposite gender. I was expecting to love Jonathan and follow his adventures with much vigor and anxiety- and the fact that he was pretty funny (this book has footnotes with his comical comments) added to that expectation, too! - but the more I read on, the more bored and confused I got, resulting to an underwhelming reading experience.

Long story short: I was not impressed.

I think one of the reasons I couldn't really appreciate this book very much was how things seemed to happen without any real build-up or smooth transition, resulting to a fast pace that doesn't leave you enough time to take a breath and look at your surroundings. There were some internal narrations here and there which did give me a sneak peek into how Jonathan's mind works, but the lack of them and the abundance of paragraphs upon paragraphs of things going on to the minute detail didn't make me connect to him at all, or to any of the characters, or to his plight in general. It really left me annoyed that the plot kept going and going and going without developing any scenes enough for me to feel emotionally-involved in them. At the best of times, when a character does something, whether or not I agree with them, I go, "Ah, I get why he does it." But in this book, Jonathan does something, and sometimes I find myself scratching my head. Lockwood goes lethal and sarcastic mode and I go, "Uhh... okay."

And did I mention lack of development and build-up? Jonathan finds himself having the ability to do Illusions. His father can, too, and apparently even Lady Florel can. We learn a lot of people actually have this ability. It was really bizarre when at Point A Jonathan was struggling with it, and then at Point B, he's apparently the shit and is seen as one of the best, able to do things that nobody else can (OMFG guys who is this guy?! so cool! /s)! And I'm like, "Uhhhhhhhhh... can someone please tell me how the fuck this n00b became the freaking Houdini after only a few Illusions?"

Don't think I'm done yet, because I have issues with the world-building as well. As the blurb states, there are parallel worlds, here. There are explanations on how they work, but for the love of all things holy, I cannot for the life of me understand them. Seriously. I am so confused on how everything falls into place, and the fact that the parallel world in particular was just bizarre. I mean, do I make sense? It was fine before the hero got into the other dimension of his world (despite my reservations), but as soon as we got to that part, it was just a clusterfuck of complicated stuff after another, giving me a jumbled image in my head of what it looks like.

Put all this factors together, you get a bored and disappointed reader who just can't wait to get to the ending. Fifty percent in, I started skimming pages because 1.) I didn't care about the characters; 2.) I couldn't even really understand the mechanics of the world so the explanations were almost futile; and 3.) BOOOORED. I do think Dixon has a good writing style, though, and I wonder what it would be like if she would work on a book that wasn't as fast-paced as this and given more space to polish her characters and setting. Alas, however, Illusionarium wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews839 followers
April 22, 2015

I have been waiting for this book for nearly two years. And I'll have to wait more than half of another. Just keep swimming...

***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (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.

What I Liked:

This book was pretty great! Definitely worth the long wait between this one and Heather Dixon's last novel, Entwined. Entwined was one of my favorite books of 2011 - and one of my favorites of all time! Fairy tale retelling, gorgeous fantasy, and lots of great humor. This book, Illusionarium, was a bit different, but with elements of Entwined that are true to Dixon's unique writing style. While I think I liked Entwined more (let's face it - I LOVED Entwined, and little will come close to it), I certainly enjoyed this book, and definitely want to read more by Dixon!

Jonathan and his family live in a large aerial city, living their lives and minding their business. His father is the second best scientist/surgeon in the second only to lady Florel, a cold by genius scientist who apprenticed his father. When the queen falls ill with Venen, the disease that is killing the people of the city, Jonathan and his father are taken to the king's ship. But when Jonathan's mother and sister contracts Venen, Jonathan gets caught up in a chemical called fantillium, a Lady Florel that isn't Lady Florel, a power he did not know he had, and a world he never knew existed.

Just a note - this book is not related to Entwined at all! This book is a historical fiction novel with aspects of fantasy and parallel worlds in it. Not quite time travel, though there is some playing with time. The ideas of this book are so interesting! Aerial cities is what drew me, but the illusions business is pretty cool too. Jonathan takes fantillium, and discovers that he can create illusions very well, with fantillium's aid. Could he illusion time to speed up? Could he illusion a cure's creation? Could he... illusion himself into a new world? Well, he didn't. The Lady Florel that isn't Lady Florel drags him to the parallel London, where she is queen. There, she strikes a deal: illusion for her, and she'll give him the cure.

This book is definitely a bit slow at first. Things really didn't "start" for me until Jonathan enters the parallel city of Nod'ol (the spelling of the name is eluding me at the moment, but I think that's correct). There, he is forced to compete in an illusion contest of a sort. The purpose is entertainment, but he must create amazing illusions and beat two prodigy illusionists (who are also in the competition to win something precious) in order to get the cure. The illusion aspect of this book is really interesting, and the side effects of fantillium are totally creepy. I won't give anything away, but the side effects are weird!

This book is told from Jonathan's point-of-view. Jonathan is such a kindhearted, jovial character. This book has an overall humorous tone, and Jonathan's inner voice is quite funny. Lockwood is another primary character, though his point-of-view is not featured. Lockwood is a military officer in the king's ship, a lieutenant, if I remember correctly. He is constantly trying to choke Jonathan (no, seriously), after Jonathan (accidentally) let the doppelganger Lady Florel escape. Lockwood comes with Jonathan to Nod'ol, though he can't illusion. Lockwood is a hilarious addition to this story, and I'm glad Dixon kept constructing his character throughout the book. The book would not have been as funny or as enjoyable without him.

Another important character is Hannah - Anna in Nod'ol. Hannah/Anna is Jonathan's sister. Anna is the sister we see more of, as more of the book is spent in Nod'ol. Anna becomes a critical character in Nod'ol, just like Hannah is a critical character in London. There's also a little romance involving her, which was sweet. Jonathan has his own lady love, though his romance is by fair the least important aspect of the book. You might as well go in thinking there is ZERO romance to this book. Which is fine! This book doesn't need romance to stand on its own "legs".

The world-building was pretty well-done, in my opinion. I think I saw complaints about this, but I also think you really have to read the entire book to get a good grasp on the concepts of the book. I think Dixon's writing and world-building is solid.

I loved the historical fiction aspect of the book! Dixon definitely has the historical side down. I'm also a huge history fan, so naturally I was obsessed with this part of the book. This time period is one of my favorites, and it's fascinating to see how Dixon incorporates something so unreal - an aerial city - into this time period. Creative!

This book wraps up really nicely as a standalone! The story started and finished and there really aren't any loose ends or leftover questions to be answered. This is good - I like it when standalones are airtight like that, with no room for ambiguity. The ending is very pleasant and light, though there is a death that was super sad. But then it's not as sad when something else happens. So the ending overall is very sweet. You'd have to read it to know what I mean!

What I Did Not Like:

This one definitely reads as a "younger" YA novel. Entwined had a "younger" YA vibe to it too, so I wasn't really surprised when I started reading this book and thought it was a tiny bit on the juvenile side. Not trivial or childish, but not the tone of a mature YA book that one might think of this book, given its strong historical fiction and fantasy foundations. So, if you're turned off by "lower" YA books, perhaps this one isn't for you. It didn't really bother me, though I definitely noticed it.

Would I Recommend It:

I would recommend this one! It's light and humorous and a fast read. The story is interesting, the concepts are pretty unique, and the cover is lovely! What's not to like! Unless you're not a fan of YA for a younger audience - see my note above.


3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. I liked this book! I hope Dixon has more novels up her sleeve, because I wouldn't mind reading more of her work.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,097 followers
April 24, 2019
In this alternative nineteenth-century timeline, the Arthurisian (British) Empire has mastered so much technology that cities can float in the air, their residents travelling by airships. Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Gouden lives in one of these floating cities with his scientist father, mother, and feisty sister Hannah. Jonathan looks forward to attending a university and carrying on his father’s legacy of scientific discoveries, but he has very little going on in his life at the moment.

Until his city, Fata Morgana, is struck by a mysterious disease called the Venen, which kills all who contract it within five days. The epidemic claims the life of the Queen. Soon Jonathan’s mum and Hannah fall sick. Meanwhile, the King is demanding that Jonathan’s father produce a cure yesterday. The King, on the advice of his advisor Lady Florel, wants this new drug developed from a hallucinogen called fantillium, which produces marvelous illusions. If Dr. Gouden can’t produce, he risks execution.

But fantillium has terrible side-effects, as Jonathan learns after following Lady Florel to a looking-glass version of Arthurise, called Nod’ol, where all of society is addicted to the stuff. The Nod’olians do nothing but ingest their drug and watch magic shows, where skilled illusionists produce hallucinations they all can share. Inside and out, they are turning into monsters.

All but Anna, a dead ringer for Jonathan’s sister, who longs to escape the corrupted city and reunite with her family. It’s her, Jonathan, and Jonathan’s nemesis, the soldier Lockwood, against a tyrannical queen and her broken subjects. What’s the ethical choice, when the only cure you can give your family is worse than the disease?

Content Advisory
Violence: Some of the illusions conjured involve people getting stabbed or burned alive. They never die in real life, but the experience of dying in an illusion is still painful and can produce life-after-death experiences. A young woman is fatally shot.

Sex: Some mildly vampish behavior from a young female illusionist who can’t make up her mind if she wants to kill Jonathan or make him her pet. He firmly refuses her advances.

Language: Nothing.

Substance Abuse: THE WHOLE PLOT is about the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs.

Nightmare Fuel: Accumulated doses of fantillium cause a process called Rivening, where people sprout extra limbs, organs, and even faces. Constantine is so disfigured that he always wears a mask with a snout. Divinity has an eyeball on her shoulder and implies that her other mutations are too embarrassing to mention. And Queen Honoria .

Politics & Religion: The life-after-death experiences are notable for a lack of spiritual imagery.

Illusionarium has some things in common with the illusions its characters create: it’s not terribly deep, and sometimes it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. But what an evocative, exciting mirage!

If you’ve read Dixon’s previous novel, Entwined, you’ve probably noticed her expertise on Victorian culture, which makes for a vivid setting. It works even better here. The visuals and set pieces are excellent, and her love of all things Victorian clearly shines through.

The three main characters—Jonathan, Anna, and Lockwood—all complement each other well. Their quest to escape a vast, hostile complex while bantering at each other may seem very familiar, but in a welcome way.

Luke, Leia and Han

The book sticks out in a lot of good ways. While it certainly has a strong female lead (or two), it also has a kind and clever male protagonist; in no way do they detract from each other. It also has its priorities in the right place. All the characters agree that saving lives is far more important that their romantic angst or rivalries. There’s also a really cute friendship that evolves from two characters who previously despised each other.

Recommended if you liked Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series or Sharon Cameron’s Dark Unwinding duology…or if you liked A.G. Howard’s books but weren’t crazy about the love triangles and melodrama.
Profile Image for Jodi Meadows.
Author 31 books4,629 followers
April 9, 2015
This book was so much fun. I loved the inventive worldbuilding -- an alternate London and a different alternate London! -- as well as the sense of humor throughout the whole thing. I read this on a plane . . . to London. It definitely passed the time quickly!
Profile Image for merina rey.
47 reviews50 followers
June 26, 2018
Considering I found this book at THE DOLLAR TREE.... I was so pleasantly surprised to thoroughly enjoy it! I had never before read a "steam punk" type of book and I will admit steam punk is definitely not my favorite genre...but wow this book was so good!
This book is heavily plot driven, it starts off with a bang and is fast paced thru the entirety of the book! There are not any slow moments in the book....it's just a "go,go,go!" type of read!
However, it was FILLED with information and it was extremely difficult at times to not feel completely lost.
The character development was great. I LOVED Lockwood as a supporting character, and I would most definitely love to read this story told from his perspective. He was so cocky and arrogant yet so unique and likeable.
Overall, this book gets 3.5 from me and I would definitely recommend it to any of my steam punk loving fellow readers!
Profile Image for Deborah O'Carroll.
479 reviews93 followers
December 2, 2022
*****Updated very long rambly fangirling babbles "review" can be found on my blog: https://deborahocarroll.wordpress.com...*****

(I almost rated it less due to the creepiness of a couple elements, but I just COULDN'T rate it less than 5.)

My first steampunk! Gasp. (With some alternate worlds and timey-wimey ish and other weirdness thrown in.) I guess I must read more steampunk...





*floats away in the clouds grinning like a fool*
Profile Image for Brenna.
334 reviews115 followers
Want to read
July 16, 2013
Aerial cities? LOVE.

I adored Entwined and I'm SO excited to see that Illusionarium is up on GR and that it's set for 2014! Fingers crossed the publication date stays within 2014 because I'd love to read more from Heather Dixon!
Profile Image for mary liz.
213 reviews18 followers
February 12, 2017
Have I fully expressed how much I love this book? GOOD GRIEF, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. <3333 If at all possible, it was even better upon rereading it. SERIOUSLY. I think I love it even more than I did before.

First of all, the writing style. Oh my stars, Heather Dixon's writing blows. me. away. She has such a unique, quirky writing voice that sticks out to me every time I read her books. Just the way she describes things is really intriguing, and I looooove the footnotes at the bottom that add to the description/inner thoughts of the main character. (There's so much snark. I love snark.)

Then we have the characters. THE CHARACTERS, PEOPLE. What's so special about them, you ask? Why, they're only some of the greatest characters in existence, that's all.

You have:

+ Jonathan (or Johnny, as Lockwood calls him XD), who is the main character and thus makes all the epic, snarky commentary. He's great.

+ Lockwood, the full-of-himself lieutenant who seems to make it his personal goal to kill Jonathan. XD As if he weren't deadly enough with a gun, he's also loaded with lethal wit. AND GOSH, I LOVE HIM. He makes me crack up basically the entire time I'm reading the book.

+ Anna, whom I actually really liked. She's so spunky and headstrong yet also soft around the edges. I don't like her as much as Jonathan and Lockwood (but how could I when they're so amazing?), but she's still a great character.

Plus, the world building/plot is incredible in this book. I'm just sitting here shellshocked once again at the brilliance. I've NEVER read a book like Illusionarium, and I doubt I ever will. It's just so unique, honestly.

In short? This book is my happy place. It's definitely not for everyone (what with the odd/creepy things happening in it), but it's most certainly for me. I LOVE IT DEARLY. And I desperately need Heather Dixon to write more books. Please???
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews243 followers
May 12, 2015

No idea whatsoever on how I am going to review this...

Arc provided by Greenwillow Books through Edelweiss

Release Date: May 19 th

For once a synopsis that doesn't lie: this is in fact, a richly developed fantasy novel featuring parallel worlds, with non stop adventure, humour and a dash of romance.

And yes, it did remind me of the Night Circus with his fantastical images _ or in this case the illusions the characters make happen, not with the help of magic but something completely different _ but while NC mainly lives on the account of the beautiful images it creates, Illusionarium ends up being more complete.

It does however have some issues.
The Reason ( yes, capital R) why the adventure starts: a mysterious disease that only affects the female population.
No idea. Its as if with so many other knots to tie the author forgot about that. Yes, I know where it comes from, but why only women are targeted?
And the strange thing, is that the author really tied every other subject perfectly, there my four star rating despite that "flaw".
And Jonathan is a scientist ( well a future one) so wouldn't he want to know that?

The writing made sure I was really watching the action in both "our world" as in the parallel that Jonathan ends up finding in his quest for an antidote for Venen. So yes, I loved the writing _ even with its occasional "strange" phrasing.

The side-notes were funny as hell!
Normally I hate this type of thing: it breaks the narrative pace and so on, but not in this book. Mostly they drew a laugh out of me.

Now, lets talk about the main character:
Jonathan despite having a very glaring Gary Stu characteristic _ he's immediately a prodigy at illusions _ ends up making a lot of glaring mistakes which ends helping getting him away from that dreadful role.
So yay, for him mostly being a sixteen year old idiot! :)
(really guys I am being sincere here. No sarcasm on sight...)

Then we are given front role seats to how guys become friends _ some of them, lol _ and yes, and involves fists and fighting.
They're actually cute :) in their bonding.

I also have to mention that I liked how family ends up having a very important role in the story without it being preachy.
Jonathan has a sister who he loves. A very intelligent sister _ he uses the expression "absolute" type of person to describe her _ that he's not threatened by. This is how he sees himself:

"Unlike me, of course. I could only be described as sort of."

The boy is still trying to find who he is, and what he's capable of, so when the adventure begins he couldn't be farther away from the typical hero type... which by the way ends up being great.

I already mentioned that he's prone to idiotic behaviour, right?
He means well, but most of the time the boy makes the worst decisions ever. *head desk*
(of course that's the only way for the action to start happening -_- so, I'll let it pass ;)

Well, luckily for me it doesn't have too much of it, you know? lol
Too much of: "I haven't the slightest idea of what you're talking about!"

In this story I was actually able of seeing what was going on, and what they were doing, unlike what ends up happening with most steampunk novels with their gibberish talks.

So, maybe the story drags a little at times, however I have to give credit to all the imagination that is behind it and the way the author was able to tie some really troublesome knots.

Bottom line and despite that "thing" that I already mentioned, this ends up being a really clever book.

p.s- Oh, and the cover is gorgeous :D
Profile Image for Olivia.
322 reviews71 followers
December 21, 2022
{December 2022 Reread}

I'd forgotten that Dixon

Other than that, this was actually better than I remember it being, a few flaws and corny moments aside. I quite enjoyed it. 🙂

{Original October 2019 Review}

I know Dixon's books have flaws, but dang it, they just make me so HAPPY. 💙
Profile Image for Amanda .
432 reviews154 followers
April 1, 2018
I picked this book up at a used book sale. Everything about it intrigued me, the title, description and the cover. Can we talk about that gorgeous cover? It had me completely sold! It was just so beautiful with an air of mystery. All of these factors had me starting out with high expectations. But I had never heard of it and that made me weary. Then I thought about all the hype that And I Darken received and I decided to plunge on, because that book didn't deserve all the press it got. I have loved many books that are not popular and dislike many that are.

I was immediately drawn in to Illusionarium because not only is Heather Dixon's writing fresh and brimming with the personality of Jonathan, who the story's point of view is told from, but also because it brings science fiction into fantasy in a way that isn't dull. By the end of the first two chapters I found myself completely captivated. I have been reading novels that were much slower paced and boring, so in comparison Illusionarium moved incredibly fast for me. I couldn't set it down for a minute, and before I even took a break to look up from the book I was more than halfway through.

Jonathan is sarcastic and funny. The way the book is written from his point of view makes me feel as if I know him. It also feels authentic in a way that some books fail to master. Capturing the way a mind thinks while events play out. Sometimes a thought is disrupted by an action and that is captured here.

I have never read a book about parallel universes before because they seem extremely heavy on the science side of science fiction. Awhile do enjoy sci-fi books, I find that too much science can bog down the story. This is a novel that has a great story and has just enough science in it to explain what is going on, but not too much that it overwhelms the plot.

Some of the descriptions of the illusions were so cool. There were many times while reading that I thought how cool it would be if they could make this into a movie. Heather Dixon created a great plot with really fun to read characters. I am putting Entwined on my to be read list.
Profile Image for Nemo (The ☾Moonlight☾ Library).
627 reviews302 followers
May 14, 2015
This review was originally posted on The Moonlight Library 


I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In an alternate steampunk 1800s London, a young surgeon-to-be Jonathon is required to find the cure to a deadly illness affecting the world’s women by competing in an parallel world’s competition of illusion creating, but there’s more to illusions and other worlds than meets the eye.
Oh my god where do I even start. There’s an alternate steampunk 1880s London called Arthurise that this story starts in, then it moves to a parallel world to that one, then within that parallel world there are illusions that change the way people perceive things. It’s complicated and awesome. I totally bought the alternate Arthurise and once that was settled, the parallel London, called No’dol, was also quick to accept. The world-building was rich and varied and oh so very strange, but the strangeness made sense as the story unravelled. It was amazing the way the strange hallucination-inducing fantilium was introduced and used and how that affected the world as well.
Jonathon was, in a word, amazing. A perfectly ordinary boy, nothing special at all, happens to be a very powerful illusioner – but not right out of the gate. He learns and uses his past education and experience to help him achieve greatness. It was wonderful watching him develop.

Anna/Hannah was also a delight. Both girls were very funny and brave and it was great seeing a young girl unconfined to what the times should have bound her. I liked her a lot.

Lockwood was a surprise to me, but really, he shouldn’t have been. I have an extraordinary weakness for reformed bad guys, and although Lockwood at first seems like a villain, over the course of the novel he and Jonathon enter a somewhat tumultuous almost-friendship. More like frenemies. I absolutely loved Lockwood, and I hate that I loved him. He was such an asshole! But that makes it even better. I think he’s an incredible character and the novel was greatly enriched by his mere existence.
There isn’t really a romance for Jonathon – he has a girl he quite fancies, a friend of his sister’s, but she only appears at the beginning and end. The real relationship is between Anna and Lockwood, but because it’s set in the 1880s, you know, it’s all about looking at each other and blushing. It was quite adorable.

But Jonathon’s powerful relationship to both Hannah and Anna (am I confusing you yet?) was beautiful to watch. We don’t get enough brother/sister relationships in adventures like this, and his plutonic relationship with alternate-world Anna was gorgeous.

Of course, the stand out was Jonathon’s relationship to Lockwood. Like I said, Lockwood is a complete asshole and he starts out as an antagonist, but the relationship advances into mutual begrudging respect and even, I daresay, some degree of friendship, the type where you’re always competing.
Click through to my blog's review to see who I would cast in a film version.
Dixon’s Entwined is my favourite novel of all time, so I was quite afraid Illusionarium wouldn’t hold up to it. I am so pleased to be wrong. Even though the style is different, using first person POV and endnotes to enhance humour, Illusionarium still sparkled with Dixon’s trademark wit, onomatopoeia, and lush, cinematic writing. Like Entwined, the story took a while setting things up before it really got going but soon enough I was entranced and deeply, deeply in love. I had a somewhat disappointing reading year in 2014 and I can safely say this is the best book I have read in a long, long time.
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
April 4, 2015
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A decent YA sci-fi read set in an aerial city, but not nearly as good as I had expected.

Opening Sentence: When storms like this hit Fata Morgana, the snow blew horizontal, glaciers formed over the buildings and walkways, ad nothing – not airships, not light signals – could get through.

The Review:

I had very high hopes for this book, mainly because some of my fellow bloggers included Illusionarium as one of their most anticipated reads for 2015 so you can imagine my surprise when it took me a while to become engrossed in the story. In the end, I decided that it was a bog-standard ‘good’ read. Not fantastic or thrilling as such, but fairly interesting.

The story is set in an aerial city in 1882 and is told from Jonathan’s perspective. I particularly liked the way he describes people, for example, his sister Hannah was an ‘absolute’ kind of person, whilst he was ‘sort of’ and some people were ‘much more’ than others.

I could only be described as sort of. Sort of tall. Sort of thin. Sort of brownish hair that was sort of curly and sort of not. I wore the same thing every day – a vest and cap and trousers that were all sort of beige. I was sort of smart, but not as smart as Hannah, who was two years younger than me but outdistanced me in every subject save anatomy, biology, and mathematics.

Unlike the average hero, Jonathan doesn’t think he’s anything special, he’s not as smart as Hannah, not a fighter like Lockwood; he’s the kind of person that would walk by unnoticed. So being able to illusion is a huge surprise, but his newly found power is also dangerous. His inner turmoil between right and wrong is tested when his family’s lives are at stake, and it makes you think, how far would you go to save the ones you loved?

My favourite character was the cocky Lieutenant, Lockwood. He brought the humour to the story and made me chuckle with his attempts at romance, the poor thing didn’t have a clue!

The race to find a cure, and the battles in Nod’ol – hard to describe but it was like an alternative dimension, think ‘London’ backwards – brought an element of excitement into the story. As the story progressed there were a number of action scenes, which were fun to read, especially when it involved Jonathan and Lockwood since they have a love-hate relationship but were, mostly, fighting on the same side.

I’m always looking for unusual aspects to a book, something to make it stand out and with Illusionarium it was the footnotes. Now and again, the author would use a footnote to insert Jonathan’s more personal thoughts. Usually, footnotes provide extra detail or a reference point but the way footnotes were used in this book weren’t boring at all!

Notable Scene:

“You’ll turn full Riven. Your face will split into two faces and your hands into lots of fingers and you’ll have extra eyes and ears and toes and pretty soon your heart can’t push blood to all of it. And then your brain starts to split, and that’s when people really go mad, all those disconnected thoughts, and that’s when you die,” she finished.18

18 With far too much relish.

Additional Notable Scene:

He glanced at Anna, who was blushing even redder at her teacup, and I caught that Look again in his one eye. The watching-airships-exploding helpless Look.

I stifled a cough. Lockwood was dead in love!

What, already? My thoughts overthought. It was months before I’d even noticed Alice. I still hadn’t plucked up the courage to talk to her. But Lockwood was an absolute sort of person, wasn’t he? He wouldn’t fall in love like tripping over a brick. He was the sort to rear back, run, catapult over the side of an airship’s railing and fall, fall, fall into love before smacking into the Ocean of Delirious Wanderings.22

22 Which would sever his limbs from his body on impact, causing Death by Unmitigated Joy.

FTC Advisory: Greenwillow/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Illusionarium. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for One Pushy Fox.
239 reviews20 followers
Want to read
January 26, 2014
I have been waiting for YEARS for another book from Ms. Dixon!!!!! I can't SQUEE loud enough on this one!!!! I love the premise too, but mostly I just want to read more of her beautiful, poetic prose again. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Lauren  (TheBookishTwins) .
455 reviews204 followers
January 3, 2016
I received a free copy via Edelweiss.

DNF at 15%

The writing style really irked me, and I could not, for the life of me, get into it. Everything seemed super fast paced, and didn't really develop all that much. The dialogue felt stilted and unnatural, too.

I'm disappointed I couldn't get into it, but hopefully I might be able to try again some time.
Profile Image for R.F. Gammon.
490 reviews176 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 14, 2018
I promise I'm gonna come back to this one at some point, y'all. I PROMISE.

But at the moment my interest level isn't up and I really want to reread some old comfort books. So I'm probably going to return most of my library books unread and work through some more Mitford and Goldstone Wood.

At some point, when I have the time and interest, I will pick this one back up. But not right now. :P
Profile Image for Katrina Michelle.
222 reviews
March 23, 2019
3.5 stars

How could I have moved so drastically from burning with disappointment (hating the book, essentially) to super impressed and full of feels? Well, I'm not sure, but that's exactly what happened with Illusionarium.

It started out less than mediocre. The characters were bland and silly, the dialogue (especially in the argument between Jonathan and his dad) was laughable, and the pacing was waaaaaay too fast - it was like watching a movie in fast-forward mode.

I spent almost half the book cringing and wondering how, after the beauty of Entwined, Illusionarium could be such a failure for me.

But then - THEN - the pacing started to slow down and smooth out. The dialogue improved. The characters started to become a little more colorful. And somehow, someway, I ended up FALLING for this story?? Feeling all the feels??? Gasping at the plot twists????

I'm a little freaked out. The change wasn't sudden and yet it was so DRASTIC. I was hoping that by the time I got around to writing this review, I'd have nailed down a clear-cut explanation, but I guess all I can say is it redeems itself in the end. Something was VERY wrong with the first half-ish, but after that initial rough patch it's like the author finds her footing, and the adventure soars from there.

I'm so glad I warmed up to the characters and got to enjoy their story in the end. Entwined fits Dixon's style SO much better, so I'd recommend that one more, but this one is a lovely story nonetheless. I kind of want to spoil allllll the feelsie things. But I won't. XD

Original fantasy concepts woven into a very steampunky setting. A strong theme woven into an engaging plotline. And a dashing young soldier with an eyepatch and a fierce attitude.

If for nothing else, read it for Lockwood. ;D
Profile Image for lorien.
185 reviews65 followers
April 14, 2017
Oh goodness! This book was absolutely amazing! The humor and the characters were hilarious and the plot was amazing! Definitely not a waste of time to read at all!
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews287 followers
January 14, 2015
2.5 stars

Illusionarium was probably one of my most highly anticipated novels of 2015. Steampunk has been trying for a couple of years now to be the new "it" genre in YA, and while there's been a couple of great offerings in the genre, it's had its fair share of bad entries and it has yet to make the impact the publishers are trying to push. I honestly thought Illusionarium would be, at the very least, one of the really good ones, considering the creativity and originality behind the premise, the promising blurb and the certain amount of trust I placed on Dixon as a writer after I read Entwined, which, in spite of being pointlessly long-winded and sorta boring at points, I still fell in love with. My trust was not entirely misplaced, I mean, Illusionarium was decently written and certainly original, but I expected so much more from it. Overall, the novel decent, but I expected something spectacular, I wanted to be blown away, and instead, I got two days of struggle and threats against myself in order to finish the novel.

What's interesting is that, for me, Entwined and Illusionarium are perfect opposites of each other. Where I struggled with Entwined because of its length, because of its tendency to be rather uneventful for long periods of time, and how that ultimately made the story drag necessarily, I had the exact opposite problem with Illusionarium. This novel is very short, and thus the action moves along at such a rapid pace that it felt far too rushed. The story moved from one point to the other with hardly any build up or development, it just jumped through all the plot points, barely making contact, as if it were a race to the finish line. The plot moved along so quickly, it left no space for emotional impact, for development, for me to form any sort of attachment to the characters or get invested in what was happening. Most importantly, for a story as convoluted and complicated as this one, the reader should've been given more time to understand. At points, whenever it got too confusing (or nonsensical), I didn't say, let me go back and read and see how it turned out like this. No, I was like, fuck it, what's the point, let's keep going because I just want to be done with this, and I may not be an author, but I don't think that's the type of attitude I'd want my readers to develop. This was such an interesting world, such a brilliant concept and very intriguing story, but it was pointlessly overcomplicated, underdeveloped at points, and written in such a way that it didn't pique my interest or engage me like I wanted to or like I think the book hoped to.

From one moment to the other, Johnathan went from knowing nothing about illusioning to closing his eyes and illusioning things and on the next, he was practically an expert. We were introduced to a concept along with the main character, and in the next heartbeat, before we had even begun to comprehend what was happening, the main character was acting and doing and dominating the entire concept. And I know he's supposed to be brilliant, but I can't keep up with a narrative that gives the reader no time to understand the complicated mechanics of the world they are presenting and wants us to believe the main character needs no time to realistically assimilate it. And not only was this done with the development of the world and the plot, but also with the emotional impact of the story and the characters themselves. The relationships between them were so rushed that, even though the dynamics between the characters never felt strained or forced, they were hard to believe and even comprehend. The characters themselves work because they were charming and interesting, but they weren't particularly layered or developed, and they sometimes felt like stereotypes. Johnathan, in particular, though his voice was amusing (and the footnotes were entertaining), his voice never felt authentically male.

Moreover, in spite of how slow Entwined was, I never actually found myself bored, whereas, with Illusionarium, I had a really hard time focusing on the story. I wouldn't say the story is boring, but I certainly wasn't all that entertained. Quite frankly, I had to push myself to finish this novel. The world in this novel is fascinating, truly intriguing and unbelievably creative, but it was still not enough to keep me hooked in the novel, and it was too complicated at points, and nonsensical at others. In fact, the whole point behind the illusions was hard to comprehend, the mechanics of the whole thing made sense up until it started messing with space and time and alternate dimensions. I've no idea how something that has no effect on people who are not breathing the same air could possibly open doors to another world and speed time to the point you can actually go into another time. The book tried to hard to make it scientific that it lacked logic at points, where, ironically, the generic magical explanation would've worked.

I liked the idea behind the plot, but the parts regarding the tournament between illusionists in particular felt like it had been forced into the plot. It felt disjointed in the story, barely connected to the main storyline and what the characters wanted and needed. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what was the point of the tournament in the story and its importance for the generic plan of the generic villain.

Towards the end, there were some scenes in there that were genuinely entertaining and engaging, and for a second I thought the whole story would turn around and give me what I'd wanted from the novel all along, but in the end, I found the final product to be very underwhelming, creative and original and intriguing, certainly, but not what I expected. This book failed to meet my expectations, and while it is not a terrible book under any circumstances, it failed to deliver something I could be even mildly enthusiastic about. There are certainly a lot of things to love about in this novel, its originality being its strongest point and something worthy of praise, but it just wasn't enough for me.
Profile Image for Diamond.
340 reviews206 followers
June 24, 2015
Review originally posted on my blog, Dee's Reads

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

This was just the book I needed to get me out of my reading funk! I'll be honest, I wasn't just in a reading funk but a bit of a life funk and this book as the ultimate distraction.
I was excited by it when I saw it and received the ARC. However, I started hearing (or rather, not really hearing too much) about it and heard a lot of mixed reviews. Although I try not to let that affect my judgement, I went into it feeling a bit trepidatious to say the least. I wasn't expecting much.
My first foray into a Heather Dixon novel proved to be extremely successful. I know understand why readers sign her praises so well.

This book read effortlessly. I'm not sure how, but I passed hours reading this that I didn't really know I had to spare! I was sucked in, almost from the beginning. The novel was written so well, and so imaginatively—that it felt like I was watching a movie. And we all love those books best. The ones that are so vivid with characters who jump off the page and spark our imaginations. The ones where we think to ourselves: "boy, this would be a kick ass movie!" And maybe they will make it a movie, I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

Parallel worlds. Steampunk Victorian era imaging. A male narrator, male pov, male protagonist. (waits for the eyebrows of those who are reading to be lifted 100%) Seriously, I love the treat that is male point of view in a YA novel. Give me more!!!

There is not a sappy romance that takes over the book, either! We have family at the heart of things. A moral compass, and the young man Jonathan Gould figuring out if he has one—and what that means. Being an illusionist is such a cool concept. It's the concept of a drug that is released in the air that can cause you to hallucinate. Thing is, some people have the talent or gift of being able to munipulate the illusion. You can stop time. You can free the air, cause lighting anything. You just have to be able to envision the entire thing at a molecular level. How genius is that? If that isn't an imaginative idea for a story—well, I don't know what is.

Dixon followed through and really had me immeshed in this world full of Illusionists and No'dol a parallel of London that has dystopian vibes with alternate history written all over it. At the center is family and the kind of sacrifice one is willing to make for their sister, mother, friends, and fathers.
This novel will take you for quite a ride through alternate worlds and monsters and horror, where the main character Jonathan isn't sure he has a moral compass. I sure did love the ride.

I recommend this book to those who love steampunk thrillers and fantastical alternate worlds.
Profile Image for Mel (Daily Prophecy).
1,082 reviews465 followers
September 14, 2015

I wanted to love this. I really did. Heather Dixon is the author from Entwined and that turned out to be one of my favorite retellings from that particular fairytale (The twelve dancing princesses). I was so stoked when I saw the announcement of her new book, but it wasn't what I expected. At all. The whole concept of illusions, aerial cities and parallel words sounded amazing, but it was confusing to me. I still don't get how the illusions work and there is something about it that doesn't feel right.

You have to be under the influence of some kind of drug, you can create things out of thin air by building it with the right elements if you have the right gift. Only people under influence can see your creations. This was an interesting idea, but then we get an explanation that those items come from parallel worlds and I got lost.
”If you can illusion something identical to another world, you can somehow manipulate the physics of the world into thinking it belongs to the other world.”
You create something that isn’t there, because it’s an illusion, but at the same time it’s real? I just didn't understand the parallel worlds and how people are able to travel between them.The explanations fell short on TRULY explaining what was going on and it doesn't make sense if you scientifically look at it.

I like that the book is written from the POV of a boy, called Jonathan, but he doesn't necessarily feels like a boy. If we would have switched his name to, let's say, Joan, it would have been the same. I never felt I got to know him. He stays flat and has no characteristic personality traits, although I like how loyal he was to his family.

I liked the sickness that is spreading, which all started the Illusionarium business, but I wish we got more information about it. Perhaps it's just me and my love for medical things, but I wanted an explanation why it only targeted women and not men? I want prove that the author thought about those tiny details.

I have to give Heather points for creativity and the fact that there is no overwhelming romance whatsoever. Jonathan has some feelings for a girl, but he is far too busy with the fact that important people are getting sick & that he is stuck in another world. That gives his personality some credits, because far too often we see people falling in love - and then they forget about what truly matters. The ending wraps everything up in a nice way, but mweh. I'm disappointed. I will still keep an eye out for new work by the author, because she knows how to write, but I hope she returns to the quality of Entwined.
Profile Image for allison riera :).
518 reviews37 followers
March 23, 2021
I just didn't find this book very interesting :((. I will go back and reread one day, and see if my opinion changes, but as of now, I found it boring. :(
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 7 books101 followers
May 17, 2019
Where do I even start with this book?

I've been looking forward to this for absolute ages- ever since I finished Entwined (which is fabulous, y'all!) and found out that Heather Dixon was writing a second book (even if it wasn't in the same series). Once the release date started getting closer, I started getting scared. All the negative reviews and people saying Illusionarium was just "meh" . . . what if they were right? What if the book disappointed me?

Spoiler alert: It didn't. Illusionarium is awesome. It's not Entwined, no. But it's not supposed to be. It's a new world, new characters, new everything. And it is, in its own way, amazing.

And now . . . for the lists.

-Jonathan. Oh my pumpernickel. I liked him from the start- he's a little bit sarcastic but not overly so. And he's a scientist, or going-to-be-scientist, and definitely a bit of a nerd, and that's awesome because, let's face it, the fantasy/sci-fi world needs more semi-nerdy scientist heroes. And yes, there were times in the book where I wanted to shake him and talk sense into him (thankfully, a character in the book did it for me, except she kicked him in the shins instead), but his development was still really good.
-Lockwood. Who I wanted to smack in the face at first- but I got over that, and he's now in my top-five-favorite characters list. He's probably on par with Jonathan, really. He's based in one of my favorite character archetypes, but he's still unique, and also rather hilarious.
-STEAMPUNK! I love steampunk, and this book has plenty of it . . . airships, floating cities, psuedo-Victorian setting . . . the world in general is awesome, if rather dark, but the steampunkness is my favorite part of it.
-Fantillium. The whole illusioning sort-of-magic-system is super cool. I was worried for a few minutes at the beginning about where it might go, but it ended up being pretty awesome. And I like that it has a cost- it's not something that the characters can just throw around casually. It has a real and very serious cost.
-Footnotes. I love footnotes in books. I really do. Terry Pratchett does it, Andrew Peterson does it, and this book does it. They're little things, but they just make the book that much better.
-The Ending. It's just . . . yes. Yes, yes, yes.

-Creepiness. Seriously. I mean, I've read creepier (Showdown, anyone? Particularly at night?) but this is definitely freaky in places. Particularly when it comes to the Riven . . . ugh.
-Divinity. Stars, I want to smack her upside the head and then scratch her eyes out. She's creepy and cruel and yes she's kind of sad, but even still, I think I disliked her more than the main villain. (Don't take that to mean she upstaged the main villain, which she didn't. I just spent a larger percentage of her time onscreen wanting to smack her.)
-Kind of Fantillium again. At times, it reminded me of some kind of drug . . . which, I suppose, it kind of is. And it's shown to have a major cost, but even so . . . yeah.

Overall, Illusionarium definitely does not disappoint. It's dark and creepy, yes, but also amazing and twisting and lightened with just enough humor to keep it from being too depressing. If you want a good steampunk read- or just something unique and different- I'd certainly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Kristen.
436 reviews544 followers
April 14, 2015
This and other reviews are on my site, My Friends Are Fiction
Did you read that intriguing (and vague) summary? Sounds like perfection-so I knew I’d need to read this book as soon as possible. I’ve read Dixon’s Entwined and enjoyed it so I was even more excited. Pus, look at that cover. Really, what isn’t appealing about this?

Sadly, I think my expectations might have been too high. I enjoyed the beginning of this book but it felt on the younger side of YA and I’d hoped for a more mature storyline. The characters were okay but none of them really gripped me.

Illusionarium does deal with an alternate universe and the way Dixon introduces it through inhaling a drug and pretty much hallucinating the door between worlds was incredibly unique if not a tad hard to visualize. You’d think with drug use and hallucinating this book would feel on the older side of the young adult spectrum but it didn’t for me. The dialog and level of detail seemed nearly middle grade. I believe a good amount of people will become absorbed in the creative world building and enjoy the lighter feel of the story but it fell just a tad short for my taste.

I think my detachment stems from my inability to really connect to the main character, Jonathan. He was likeable, intelligent though on the goofy side. His voice seemed unique to him and I cant really find any real flaw with his character but my connection to him was absent. I wanted to feel more emotionally attached to him and his quest but I couldn’t. I wasn’t overly concerned about how he faired.

The side characters were less developed and felt a tad like caricatures. We spend very little time in Jonathan’s real world so his family members and love interest are quickly forgotten as the new cast of characters from the alternate universe are introduced. I’d also thought the book would be a tad romantic because of that swoony cover but it really wasn’t. There was hardly any romance and I wonder if that if it had been included if I’d have liked the story better. The book does focus on a sibling relationship that was sweet but I wanted a few swoon-moments. Again, I brought my own expectations into the story.

I ended up putting this book aside for more other books with more pressing release dates and after hanging out on my currently reading shelf since December of last year I figured it was time to give up and put this away. I might venture back because I really did enjoy this author’s other book and there wasn’t anything bad per se but it just couldn’t grip me.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,711 reviews703 followers
April 23, 2015
As soon as I saw that cover, I was pretty much sold on the book. Thankfully, the story delivered.

I really enjoyed Jonathan's inner monologue. He's really sarcastic and the story was riddled with footnotes of extra snarky commentary on his own story. It was perfect. Lockwood may have been my favorite character and I loved his interactions with Jonathan.

The main plot point is definitely intriguing and the descriptions of what was happening were perfect. However, I couldn't help but feel that there was still something missing. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but the spark I was expecting didn't exist for me.

All in all, it was quite a clever premise and a story that kept me interested.

**Huge thanks to Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**

*Squishy hugs to Michelle for letting me steal the arc she won from Epic Reads at YallWest**
Profile Image for Debby.
583 reviews540 followers
April 18, 2021
1.5 stars

Having heard amazing things about Dixon's debut, Entwined, that I have had on my shelf for years but shamefully not read yet, when the option to review Illusionarium came up, I jumped on that instantly. I'm generally a sucker for all things labeled steampunk anyway. But. Well, I think I may have learned my lesson not to jump the gun like that again.

From the very start, Illusionarium and I didn't get along - to the point where I honestly should have just stopped reading. But my sense of obligation bade me to continue. The problem with Illusionarium lies mostly in the premise and the utterly failed world building. The story takes place in a steampunk England in the late 1800s, where a plague has just broken out. Jonathan's father is a scientist hunting for the cure, and he is his apprentice. For *whatever* reason, the king believes that the cure can best be found by illusioning. And this illusion concept is where the novel crashed and burned for me.

Basically, by inhaling a chemical called "fantillium", people can make illusions: imagine substances and magic so long as they understand the compounds that the illusions would be made of. Okay, sure. Sounds fine and vaguely alchemy-like. Apparently, if multiple people inhale the stuff they *share* the illusions and can all see the same thing. A bit iffy, but it's fiction, I'll accept this. But. Apparently you can also illusion doors to parallel universes and then disappear into them. Um. No. Illusions are not real. What happens in an illusion is not real. This bugged the crap out of me because the rest of the book tried to be ultra-scientific about the world building. No. Just no.

Instantly I was unamused by this flawed world building, and it didn't help that I cared nothing for the main character. Jonathan has absolutely no personality and the book spends little to no time on characterization. It all feels extremely undeveloped and rushed. At the beginning, the book is moving so quickly from action scene to action scene but I didn't connect to any characters and hardly felt the real tension of this plague they were fighting. Things were just happening. I was a passive observer. I had trouble keeping myself reading - seriously, plucking my eyebrows was more interesting.

Jonathan ends up in a parallel version of London, a city in crisis, where the antagonist tries to keep him because he can illusion. APPARENTLY that's a rare gift that only speshul people have. (Why? How? Never explained.) In this parallel version, illusionists are the rulers of the world because... the orthoganagen (fuel) miners... like... watching them? Honestly, it made no sense. Especially when it becomes apparent that inhaling too much fantillium will cause your body to MUTATE and schism, resulting in multiple sets of eyes, noses, mouths, fingers. YEAH. GROSS. AND STILL THEY USE THIS STUFF LIKE DUMB ADDICTS UNTIL THEY ALL GO CRAZY. AND THE QUEEN CASTS OFF AND KILLS THE ONES THAT MUTATE TOO FAR AND THEN JUST GOES AND GETS MORE PEOPLE TO POPULATE HER CRAZY EMPIRE. EVEN THOUGH SHE SAYS SHE'S TRYING TO "SAVE" IT. WHAT. THE ACTUAL. FUCK.

This book is just bizarre. I tried to read as quickly as possible to just get it over with, but I had to stop at times because I was filled with such utter disbelief. My face hurts from being scrunched up so much. There wasn't even a romance to lighten the mood (which I would say makes this cover QUITE misleading - he doesn't even have a female sidekick, so wtf?), as Jonathan only has a passing crush on a girl back home. His awkwardly intense companion, Lockwood, manages however to fall in love with a girl in ONE DAY - to the extent of them being ready to give up their lives for each other and stuff. Uh... Yeah. No. That's the weirdest, most passionless, most awkward instalove I've ever seen.

But I will give this book the tiniest amount of points back because, with the bodies schisming, it turned into a very uniquely creepy story that could easily be found within a Studio Ghibli film. If such a version of this story were made, I would probably enjoy it. At least a little. I don't know.

Summing Up:

Illusionarium is a colossal disappointment. With cardboard characters, majorly flawed world building, a bizarre as fuck plot, and no romance to write home about, I can't in good conscience recommend it. Now I'll try to wipe this from my memory and eventually give Dixon another shot with Entwined. Maybe she should have just stuck to fairy tales.

GIF it to me straight!

*An electronic review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contents of the review.
Profile Image for Deniz.
1,145 reviews100 followers
August 7, 2015

"The universe is...quite a bit like chess", she said. She smiled at my expression. "Let us say, in my first move, I choose to move my knight here. Then what happens? The game progresses in a very different manner than it would have if I, perhaps, moved it here." Lady Florel moved the knight two squares to the side. "It could be completely different in fact.""Perhaps" I admitted. "But probably not entirely different."

Illusionarium is one of those well told, fascinating stories that reminds me why I love this genre so much!

It took me several days to read, simply because this is fast paced and intricate, it's the kind of book you need to pay attention too. You know, each detail is put there with a purpose. It's also what probably is the most exciting thing about this novel.
I haven't read any previous works by Dixon, so this was a wonderful discovery for me.
Her writing is beautiful, witty, clever and intricate but uncomplicated. It reminded me in parts of some of my favorite fantasy writers- Tad Williams and Brandon Sanderson, to name just two. I don't usually like comparing authors to one another. But I mean this in the most positive possible way. Because Dixon, in my opinion got everything I love about the genre wright, then went a packaged all that in beautiful prose. What a talent! With this novel she has catapulted herself into my fantasy readers heart.

The world building is astounding. It's seriously brilliant. The idea of it fun and at times I felt like Alice in Wonderland... so beautiful and well done, but so unique. While familiar it's also so innovative. Adding the whole science bits, made it so much better....No'dol and Arthurium are interesting possibilities- and somewhere there is a kernel of truth to both of them. Which is exactly what makes this so genius.

The plot is fast, interesting and fun. A well told story line, with interesting twists and turns. I found myself thoroughly entertained, even if I did see most of the twists coming. I loved being part ofJonathan journey.

The character building is well done, when it comes to Jonathan and Lockwood. But I found it was rather extreme when it came to any characters in No'dol. They felt rather a bit like caricatures, though I think frankly that Dixon did this by purpose. It give Johnathan's situation more gravity actually. It made it feel more extreme and also more Mad Hatter and Wonderland, so I didn't mind it after all.
The story is told from Jonathan POV and I really loved his footnotes. I feel like I was on the journey with him. And adventure we both shared and I utterly loved his sense of humour.
Saying all this, I think I should mention this is not character driven. The story and world building take equal place- another wonderful achievement by Dixon. It is very rare to read books who manage a balance between the three...

One of the best fantasies in 2015!
An absolute must read for lovers in the genre

Favorite Quotes:

Roasted chicken- al of the chicken, with wings and legs still attached. All of our food on Fata had to be shipped from the south, which meant it came in pieces, and I didn't quite trust food that hadn't been cut up into God-fearing chunks.

At times I'd catch her looking for me after I'd said something funny, and she'd smile at her fee and hug her books to her chest, and insofar as I could see, it was the beginning of a very promising relationship.

"A dance?"I said, laughing."What, with who? All three boys who live here?""

"Whipped?"I said. when he had told me the story. "They did things properly back then," my father had said with pride.

ASAYAW = "As Soon As You Are Willing"* *Which is the Arthurisian way of saying,"We're Dying! DYING, I SAY!"
Profile Image for Jessica (Goldenfurpro).
884 reviews252 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 9, 2020
I gave up reading this book 112 pages in. Since it’s handy for me to write out why a book didn’t work for me, I’m writing out a DNF review.

This has been on my TBR for a while. I remember being so excited for this book to come out! I featured it on Waiting on Wednesday! But when the book came out with iffy reviews, I put it on the back burner because it still sounded really interesting.

And that’s the thing, this book does have a really interesting premise! You have a fascinating steampunk world, ability to create illusions, and doorways to other worlds! Sounds awesome! But something was off with the execution. Everything happens to quickly to understand what really was going on. With that, I never understood the characters’ motives. They always acted before a real decision was made. The MC would even do things without thinking. Other characters seemed to either have emotions in the extreme, or no emotions whatsoever. It made the characters feel unrealistic. I kept reading because I heard there were parallel universes, but even that couldn’t keep me reading.

Oh, well.
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