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Illusions

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Thomas Pendelton was born into wealth and prestige. He has a sensitive heart and wants nothing more than to write poetry. Instead, he is apprenticing for Neville Wighton the Great, an aging magician who has become somewhat crazed over the years in his pursuit of fame. With Thomas’ help, Wighton is about to premiere the greatest illusion seen by man, for Thomas possesses something no other illusionist has: real magic. Many in the theatrical world are desperate to learn Wighton’s big secret. One such magician is Paolo il Magnifico. His apprentice, Saverio Moretti, is also seeking the answer. He has a scheme to get close to Wighton by seducing Thomas but seduction turns to real feelings. Now the young men must struggle to keep the secret of their romance, as well as the secret of Thomas’ magic, as both of these things could cost Thomas his life. Through journal entries, posters, letters, and other documents, ILLUSIONS is a story of love, betrayal, and of course, magic.

380 pages, Paperback

First published November 6, 2018

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Madeline J. Reynolds

2 books55 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews
Profile Image for Danielle's.
Author 1 book139 followers
October 7, 2018
Illusions is written in a series of diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings. Every magician wants to create the perfect performance. They want their final act to give the audience the overwhelming sense of something spectacular. Neville Wighton is no different. He learns a secret which makes his act go from mediocre to spectacular. His shows become sellouts but the secrets to his final act could be deadly.

Saverio is obsessed with finding out how his trick can be done. He's so obsessed he starts attending every performance. He will do literally anything to work out how Neville's new tricks is done. Saverio is even willing to seduce the magicians assistant.

Thomas wishes he was studying at a top school. He loves literature and wants to write his own material, poems are his forte. Thomas is special. He has a talent a magician could use and his parents choose this path for him. He becomes Neville Wighton's assistant.

Thomas wants to be loved and find himself. Saverio is obsessed and willing to do whatever it takes.

I have to be honest I struggled with the writing style of this book and I would recommend you try a sample before diving in. I actually read this book in two halves. The story is interesting I just wish it wasn't written in diary form. Thomas doesn't get to live his dreams he only gets to help others. Illusions is bittersweet.

3 stars out of 5. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for lucia meets books.
232 reviews134 followers
December 1, 2018
Recently in October I had to watch "The Ilusionist" for school and this book reminded me of it so much but better since it has a more deep and moving love story.

"And though I may still have to hide from those who would intend me harm, I can at least stop hiding from one person in particular... Myself."

Illusions is about Thomas and Saverio, both apprentices of famous magicians but for different reasons. The story starts when Thomas' magician perfoms an impossible trick that makes Saverio's magician seem less expectacular, that's why Saverio has to find a way to discover the secret and Thomas seems the quickest way to get to the magician. Obviously, there is a romance between them but it also gets dark because it is set in the 1800s when it was badly seen for people to love other people of the same gender.

The first aspect to highlight about Illusions is the way it's written, instead of having chapters this book is divided by journal entrys which was amazing for me because it meant we got to see the true and deepest feelings from both of our main characters.

"O, the things I tolerate to portray the ultimate illusion: love."

Firstly, I loved Saverio's character. I think he was my favorite even though Thomas wasn't that far away either. What made Saverio unique was his depth, he felt so real and I was able to relate to him through most of the book. He had to deal with so many things, you know when you tell a lie and then you have to tell more lies to cover up for the first one? Well, that was Saverio's life for a long time in this book which was so sad because he's so much more than lies.

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"But where would I go? What would I do? And who would I be in this new place?... I have thought on my earlier questions and have come up with my answers: Anywhere. Anything. And anyone."

Thomas, on the other hand, was such a cinnamon roll. So sweet and caring for everyone around him even though most of them didn't deserve it. I also loved the great development he had throughout the story. At the beginning he was so good that it made him weak but by the end he was more confident and empowered but without leaving his compassion behind.

Although the magic element was very interesting, I would have liked to know more about it. This story centers around the romance and then everything else is just a small addition. That's one of the reasons this book can't have a 5 stars from me and also because the ending was kind of predictable, I only got lost for a short period of time and then I knew how the ending was going to be again.

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All in all, I would 100% recommend this book if you're looking for a m/m sweet and deep romance which you can't help but fall in love with them and their relationship as you see them grow. However, if you're looking for a romance/fantasy story this may not be for you since it so focused on the romance aspect.
Profile Image for Stella ☆Paper Wings☆.
517 reviews46 followers
December 3, 2018
"All's fair in love and magic."

In a weird way, this book reminds me of The Abyss Surrounds Us. The two books are very different plot-wise, but they're alike in that, although they both have interesting premises, solid worlds, and exciting plots, we all know we're only here for the Gay.

So. Let's 👏 talk 👏 about 👏 the Gay 👏. It's not the best romance I've ever read, but it is still so adorable. As the blurb says, one of two main characters, Saverio, begins to romance the other one, Thomas, in order to gain information on Thomas' magician mentor's tricks. Saverio is basically the bisexual (not confirmed bi, but pretty clear) italian magician's apprentice we've all secretly needed in our lives. Thomas is my adorkable gay poet son who just wants to be frickin' loved, and then Saverio starts to actually fall for him, and I'm just... nonexistent.

For some reason I really have a thing for magician/illusionist novels, I love reading novels composed of clippings and diary entries, and the seducing-someone-for-personal-gain-turned-love trope (is that an actual trope? I hope so) is an odd favorite of mine, so this book was kind of just written for me. Illusions is a pretty niche book for these reasons though, so if those three things aren't your cup of tea, I honestly kind of doubt this will be the story that converts you.

My main critique of this book would be the pacing. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, but there was very little action, the action really only picked up around the last third of the book, and it happened a bit suddenly, as if it hadn't been planned out in the first part of the book. I think it might have been better if at least the dangers had been laid out ahead of time so that there was more of a feeling of suspense.

But overall I really enjoyed this book. Sometimes one needs some cute magic gays in one's life. Or maybe that's just me. I just want Thomas to turn me into a paper butterfly so I can be immortalized in a bookstore with my magician children. Thanks.

"But is it so naive of me to want the type of passion I so often read about? Is it foolish to want a love that is so wholly consuming that it causes me to ache? Fate is cruel that way, showing you exactly what you want even when it cannot be yours."
Profile Image for Addison (Taylor’s Version).
71 reviews6 followers
December 19, 2022
I absolutely loved this book and thought it was adorable! Honestly glad this one was sitting on my shelf for a few years, because this was the perfect cozy read for me right now!

The characters were lovable, and the writing was quick and easy to read! Some things happened in the end of this book that is usually find annoying, but I honestly loved this time.
Profile Image for Cee.
2,292 reviews91 followers
January 6, 2019
“I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”

3.5 stars

This is a difficult book to rate and review. I feel like my emotions were on a roller coaster. I started out a bit apprehensive, fell in love with the format and the characters, started getting bored, interest sparked again!, then annoyance, with a satisfying ending. So, let me run you through this.

This book is told mostly (like 90%) as diary entries written by Thomas and Saverio. I really liked this since it always feels a bit unique to me. I liked how we got their honest opinions about situations and each other and then could see how the other thought about an exchange. This made some entries long, some only a few lines long, and long spaces of time when they don't feel like writing their thoughts down. There are also some letters, newspaper headings, and a few others images once in awhile which made the reading experience so fun. I love little things like this.

The thing is, I went into this expecting a decent amount of magic, which isn't what happened. This is more of a historical romance. Until I came to this realization, I was able to change my expectations a bit, but I still was a bit bored at times. Their journals are mostly about their growing feelings for each other -- which is so cute and a joy to read at times, but considering we know that Saverio has started his seduction with nefarious purposes it is easy to see where the romance conflict is going. Perhaps because I knew where it was going I really thought a lot of this book dragged on.
Another point is, I really REALLY liked the characters. I loved that through their love and support of one another they are able to grow, but I felt like the characters lost who they were. I loved Saverio's confidence, yet it seemed to get lost to other parts of the story.

The last 15% .... I think the only thing I can say is if you get that far to read all the way to the end. I was about to get SO. Mad. I'm glad I read all the way to the end which ended the book on a high note for me, but that tiny part almost had me dropping my rating to a 2. Although even the ending felt too... implausible? Perhaps I just don't know enough about that location and time period's views.

So, would I recommend this? Yes. If you want a cute romance between likeable characters who actually show growth and emotion with a pinch of magic thrown in, then you should really give this a try. I am glad I read it. I'll probably wait for more reviews before I read the author's next work, but I definitely WILL be checking up on it.
Profile Image for Shannon.
2,269 reviews162 followers
November 6, 2018
3.5*

I was intrigued by the blurb for Illusions, (which I see has now changed on the retail sites), not having read too many books about magicians. And while I did enjoy the story and it had great potential, it didn’t turn out to be quite as entertaining as I had hoped. I didn’t actually mind the way the story was told through the journal entries of each character, and that may be because there was a lot more detail to them than what you’d normally expect to find in a diary format. The beginnings of each of the longer entries (chapters) started as if someone was writing in their journal, but then morphed into more of an actual narrative as each section progressed. That led to me wondering why it wasn’t just written in alternating point of views, instead of the hit and miss way with the journals.

It took me a bit to get pulled into the story- it really wasn’t until the last half of the book that I was truly invested. To be honest, the first 50% or so dragged. I know the set up was necessary, to get to know Thomas and Sav, but nothing really happened except for a few minor surprises. There were a couple of times I did think of waving the white flag, but by the end of the book I was glad I had stuck with it, because Thomas is one of those endearing characters that you want all the good things to happen to/for. Ms. Reynolds threw in a few twist and turns that were unexpected and that helped win me over in the end.



***Thank you to Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review.
Profile Image for Nicole Jacobs.
61 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2018
I LOVED THIS BOOK, THIS STORY WAS BREATHTAKING ( I mean that quite literally, as a few scenes had me crying and therefore I had no breath)


This book sunk into my soul and made me feel everything I was meant to.

Illusions Is about two magicians apprentices, one that is trying to steal a secret of the greatest trick ever done. And one that wants love.

This book is almost fully written in journal entry format. At first I love and hated that. Loved because I always love when there are journal entries in books. And hated because the scenes were so good I just wanted more!!

Thomas and Sav's voices are completely different in tone and style so you are never confused, even though the name is there, of who's entry you are reading.

The humor and emotion that was in this book was phenomenal. I'm almost at a lost of what to say. I loved this story so much and I adored Thomas, sweet sweet Thomas, and loved Sav, funny Italian Sav.

This book reminds me of a fairytale In a way, now that I've finished I'm just sitting here like, "man that was amazing, that was so good, that was a fairytale." Only like a 1800 fairytale with magic and boys.

I don't want to talk about the over all plot or go into specifics because that would take away from your first time reading, but man do I really feel like I just watched two peoples lives unfold.

I can't wait till this book is out in physical format because it will be mine to love to cherish.

Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this before its release, all opinions are my own and my opinion is BUY THIS BOOK.
Profile Image for becca.
28 reviews50 followers
October 15, 2018
"Yet all my life, ever since I had a concept of what I am and how different I am from the world around me, I have searched and scoured for any sign that magic exists somewhere, with other people, but my searches have proved fruitless. If there are others who wield such talents, they have done a magnificent job of keeping that fact hidden. Just another sign that I must do the same."

First of all, thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for sending me a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Illusions is about two magician's apprentices, caught deep in a web of magic and secrecy. Well-known magician Neville Wighton has gained a place in the international spotlight by debuting a trick where he vanishes into thin air, with the secret help of his apprentice Thomas. Thomas is used to keeping his magical abilities well hidden. But the appearance of Saverio, a handsome young man with motives of his own, threatens to reveal Thomas to the magical community, and to the world at large. One boy would do anything to keep his secret, and the other would do anything to find it out. But what happens when they begin to feel something far beyond enmity, or even friendship, for each other?

If I'm being honest, this was a difficult read for me. The romance is lovely and the story has its merits, but I couldn't find a single reason for it to be told almost exclusively in journal and letter format. If anything, this decision shot the story in the foot - it removed all suspense from the narrative, and brought the reader so close to the characters that it felt claustrophobic. First person narration written in traditional prose, or even third person, would have been better. Maybe the settings would have retained more life, the descriptions not so rushed. There was also the added frustration that the characters knew how each scene ended before they even began describing it - and so did the reader.

All things considered, this story has promise. But the format was distracting and counterproductive enough to take a lot away from the lovely characters and positive message. While positive LGBT+ representation is always a good thing, Illusions could have done it better.
Profile Image for Shannon.
67 reviews5 followers
November 21, 2018
Thank you to netgalley for giving me an e-ARC for an honest review.

"O, the things I tolerate to portray the ultimate illusion: love."

Thomas is a gentle soul who wants nothing more than to write poetry, but he is stuck as a magician apprentice to Neville Whiton the Great because he hides a secret: he possesses real magic.
Saverio is a magicians apprentice to the rival of Neville and has set out to find out how Neville does and unbelievable trick, but not for his master's profit, Saverio has a plan of his own and he's will to do anything for it!
Set in 1898 London, both Thomas and Saverio keep journals of their lives and through them we follow the story of their greatest illusions. This is a story of love, betrayal and of course magic!

✅Historical Fiction, LGBT Romance with a mix of magic
✅Charecter driven plot with wonderfully detailed dialogue
✅Madeline J Reynolds writting style is amazing!
✅Story is told through two point of views from our main protagonists through diary entries and was beautifully done.

❌The story swapped to 3rd person right at the end and i was a bit confused but once I realised what had happened it didnt matter.

I can't express how much i loved this book! Reynolds writting style is amazing. She has become an instant buy author for me. It took me maybe 3 chapters to get into the rhythm of the diary entries but after that i was hooked. I was expecting the story to be about 2 men who were rivals and tried to outdo each others magic tricks. What i got was an amazing love story that was so beautiful and emotional, a coming out story, a devestating betrayal and the grandest illusion. Though the story follows both young men's journals and it tells the events in past tense (and yes, it is overly detailed for a journal entry but this is fiction not real life) this never takes anything from the story, in fact I think it made it more gripping! I dont want to spoil the story for anyone because i will be recommending this book to EVERYONE so i wont say any more, but this is one of my favorite books ive read this year and i cant wait to see what Reynolds writes next!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Amelia Brunskill.
Author 3 books113 followers
November 12, 2018
I really enjoyed this book! It was a wonderful mixture of magic, romance, and really excellent writing. I loved how distinct the voices of the two boys were, and how genuine their connection felt. My two thumbs, they are both up.
Profile Image for Carrie (brightbeautifulthings).
810 reviews30 followers
October 12, 2018
I received a free e-ARC through NetGalley from the publishers at Entangled Publishing, LLC. Trigger warnings: physical abuse, emotional abuse, homophobia.

Thomas is a magician’s assistant with a dangerous secret: the magic he performs is real. Saverio is the assistant of a rival magician, and he’s been tasked with unraveling the secret of Neville’s newest trick. Somehow, the man is able to disappear into thin air and reappear on the balcony. He decides to get close to Neville’s assistant in order to learn the secret, but Thomas has a sweet charm of his own. Before long, Sav is more concerned with winning his heart than stealing his trick, but how can he convince Thomas that his affection has been genuine all this time? More importantly, how will he protect Thomas from a magician who will stop at nothing to maintain his reputation?

I don’t think epistolary style was the best choice for this novel. In the first place, it isn’t done very well. Other than the occasional poem, there are few style changes between Sav’s writing and Thomas’s, so it doesn’t feel like I’m peering in on the private thoughts of either character. There’s also the matter that no one remembers that level of detail or specific dialogue in their writing, so it never feels authentically like a journal. I could probably get past that, except that it’s also constantly dragging at the pace. Instead of being directly in the scenes, we’re frequently being pulled out of them and reminded that we’re reading someone else’s interpretation of what happened. Unfortunately, the characters’ innermost thoughts on the events don’t bring a lot to the story. It made it difficult to get invested in what was happening.

That’s not to say much does happen. The magician angle that drew me to the novel is sadly underplayed. Thomas hates magic; it takes him well over half the book to start practicing, and Sav is never actively on the page with his magician mentor. We never once see him perform or practice an illusion. In a novel almost exclusively about magicians, there just isn’t enough magic. The plot is highly character focused instead, and the actual conflict isn’t apparent until well over halfway. For readers who don’t mind introspective character books, this won’t be a problem, but it’s not for readers who prefer fast-paced or complicated plots.

The two main characters aren’t bad, although the side characters are mainly caricatures of villains–which is fine, because this story isn’t about them. Sav is a charming playboy who’s sworn off love, and Thomas is a shy poet with little life experience and more than one secret that could get him killed. The character development is well done on both sides. I preferred Thomas learning to stand up for himself to Sav overcoming his fear of love, but only because it felt slightly more original. The pretend-romance-becomes-real-romance trope is strong, but it’s a cute one. I enjoyed watching their relationship progress. I dislike the fact that homosexuality is illegal in every historical fantasy novel ever (magic is real, but we can’t imagine a world where LGBTQ+ people aren’t persecuted?), but it ends up playing a distinct role in the plot.

The last quarter of the book is faster and more suspenseful as there’s finally a conflict outside of the characters’ relationships. It becomes clear why the journal format is necessary, which resolved a few inexplicable things about the writing (why Thomas’s journal switches randomly to second person, why the last section of the book abandons the journal format and moves to plain narrative–I guess), but I’m not sure it’s enough to justify the damage it does to the pace. I think I would have felt more connected to the characters without it. Reynolds never really had me fooled with the ending, but I didn’t want to be. All in all, Illusions is a cute, fluffy gay romance that’s high on tropes and low on drama. It doesn’t bring a lot of new things to the table for either magician stories or romance, but there are thousands of hetero romances out there that are cut from the same cloth. I see no reason not to write and read another thousand of the same stories with more diverse representation.

I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.
Profile Image for Brooke Banks.
899 reviews175 followers
November 24, 2018
I received this book for free from YA Bound Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Welcome back lovelies! You're going to love today's feature Illusions by Madeline J. Reynolds. It's a historical m/m romance with a touch of literal magic. My 5 star review is below along with a tour wide giveaway for TWO copies of Illusions!
ABOUT ILLUSIONS

ABOUT ILLUSIONS'S AUTHOR

IMHO: ILLUSIONS
Illusions Teaser Image

Content Warning: Abuse, Homophobia, Hate Crime, Depression, Public Execution

Told in alternating journal entries & poems by Thomas in between
Immediately engaging and swept me away, very easy to imagine and slip into
Could NOT stop reading. Pacing and flow is perfect.
Did have to flip back to check out the dates  as I was reading because I kept losing the time frame & dates, but that's a personal problem
Journal entries were AMAZING. I love what was included and what was missing, leaving some to the imagination and between the lines. Voices and styles are very distinct for each narrator.
I love their getting to know each other and following romance. Thomas is an adorable cinnamon roll poet while Saverio is dashing, and mischievous. Saverio kinda reminds me of Flynn from Tangled, TBH. I can totally see him doing "the smolder" 
There's no real explanation or world building in regards to the magic, it's about their relationships and the now. I'm cool with that personally. But don't go in expecting a ton of witchiness or spells or details.
Did not see that twist coming. Honestly thought it was going another way.
CRIED at the end. While in public on the bus. Embarrassing but so damn good.



Perfect for fans of Timekeeper by Tara Sim with less focus on the magical/paranormal aspects and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzie Lee, with a little bit of magic.

 

ILLUSIONS GIVEAWAY
Two print copies – US only
a Rafflecopter giveaway
ILLUSIONS BLOG TOUR


YA Bound Tours Button

 This review was originally posted on The Layaway Dragon
Profile Image for Alex.
777 reviews19 followers
November 11, 2018
I came to this book expecting an exciting story about the lives of magicians entertaining people in the late 1800s. As someone who loves stories about old show business, I just KNEW that I was going to love this one. What I got was so much more than what I could have ever dreamed of. 

When I started reading the novel, I was reading chapters flipping back and forth between Thomas and Sav's diary entries. They hadn't met yet, and I wasn't sure when they were going to meet. All I knew was that they were both magicians apprentices and that the magicians the boys worked for were competing against each other. Then, they cross paths. Thomas starts wanting to talk to the mysterious stranger who keeps coming to his shows, and Sav needs to know how Thomas and Neville pull off their disappearing trick. Sav never plans to fall for Thomas, and Thomas definitely doesn't plan on falling for him. But they do, and Sav has to decide whether to abandon his master and stay with his magic boy, or to reveal Thomas' secrets and ruin his life. 

I haven't read any LGBT Victorian romance novels, so I didn't know what to expect once I saw how romantic that this was getting. It was interesting to see their relationship dynamic, and how almost freeing it was for them. Without the internet, they were able to keep more under the radar of the local homophobic citizens. They could just stay in their flat or go on dates at night, and barely anybody would be out to see them. It seemed like a normal YA romance novel, except I thought that Thomas and Sav had more chemistry than most YA couples usually do. 

Thomas has magic, but I felt that his magic could have been explored a bit more. The book never explains why Thomas has magic, how he found out that he had magic, and how he was able to use/control his powers. The story was still long without this bit of filler, but I would have liked to know a little bit more about how his powers specifically worked. 

Sav also has a "rags-to-riches" backstory that is mentioned a few times in the novel, but is again never explored in depth. Since the book was set up in diary format, I think that there were opportunities for Sav to reflect on his past more. 
Even though the book didn't discuss the characters' backstories as much, the characters' current personalities were developed in amazing ways. Thomas was a shy apprentice, but he got stronger as he fell harder for Sav and continued to help Neville in his performances. The outcome of the performances reflected his emotional state. When he was upset, the performance didn't go well. When he was happily in love, the performances went perfectly. Same with Sav. He started the story being strong, stoic and refusing to open up to Thomas. He had to learn how to break out of his shell, opening up to and trusting Thomas. 

There was just so much depth to this book. I have never read a book about show business or magic shows just like this one. I would literally recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction, or YA LGBTQ+ romance.

I received an advance copy of this book, and this is my voluntary review. 
Profile Image for Cas.
270 reviews55 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
February 21, 2019
DNF at 30%

I would have preferred to watch paint dry in a 30°F room than continue to haul my typically stubborn ass through this book for even “just one more chapter” in hopes that it got better because I hate abandoning books. And considering I’ve suffered many books that have gone to the metaphorical Never Again Cemetery and taken years of my life with them, I think that says a lot.

Though, before I continue, I really do feel the need to say that I’m not calling this book bad. This is wholly objective so if you like historical fiction with a little whimsy, you’ll potentially like this book because it’s not bad, there’s nothing problematic as far as I know. Just, for me, I would have found counting blades of grass more fun.

Where the concept is interesting, the characters and execution fall flat. I’m not really sure if it’s the prose or the formatting of the book (all the chapters are written as journal entries from both Thomas and Saverio) that made it such a dull read, but I fell asleep on multiple occasions reading chapters and they didn’t go down very easily. It was like shoving a packet of saltine crackers in my mouth without having a glass of water.

This could potentially be my own fault because I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction—mostly because of the dialogue and narrative styles that tend to come off as pretentious rather than dated and a general kind of disconnect that leaves me detached and uninterested. I think the only reason I tried to give this a shot is because I read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue a couple months ago, which very surprisingly ended up being one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a long time. So I thought maybe I’d give the genre more of a chance and be more open-minded.

So yes, I can fully acknowledge that this is probably my own fault so everything I say should be taken with a grain of absolutely nothing, but from a critical standpoint, I still think the execution was dull and the characters were lackluster. The writing fell into the same trap most historical fiction books do trip into, except it also had this strange kind of monotone to it. Neither Thomas nor Saverio interested me enough to be curious about them, their motives, or see their relationship blossom into something beyond surface lust. Everything just felt bland and dry and I was very simply just bored and unmotivated to continue.

As always, I’m not here to sway anyone or lead them away from this book. The LGBT+ representation had promise, and the concept is very interesting and there are plenty of people that loved how this book was written. If you’re interested in a historical fiction with some gay and some magic, you would probably be very inclined to read this.

It just wasn’t for me and I vowed to myself not to waste too much time on books I wasn’t enjoying this year to spare myself some stress because we all know I’ll probably die from an aneurysm writing a review about a book that ignited some seriously intense Feelings, good or bad.
Profile Image for Mi Universo Literario Writer.
546 reviews1 follower
December 19, 2018

Tal vez el hecho de que Illusions de Madeline J. Reynolds no sea un libro tan conocido tendría que haberme dicho algo, pero ignoré todas las señales y por una vez me mandé a esta lectura sin saber nada sobre ella y basándome sólo en 1 recomendación. Mi error :( Este libro prometía mucho y daba la impresión de tener mucho de lo que me gusta: un poco de Historia, magia, magos, shows, trucos, actos de magia y arte (poesía, para ser específicos). Es una historia de un aprendiz que sólo quiere escribir poesía y huir de lo que la sociedad espera de él y de otro chico que moriría por cambiar de roles. Es todo un juego de magia donde no sabés qué es real y qué no lo es, y es una historia de amor hecha de clichés ya vistos, pero es DIVERSO. Y eso me encantó. Es una gran premisa con excelentes personajes y una buena idea. Y podría haber sido grandioso :/

“But where would I go? What would I do? And who would I be in this new place? … I have thought on my earlier questions and have come up with my answers: Anywhere. Anything. And anyone.”

Creo que todos los problemas que tuve con Illusions parten de un problema mayor: la narración. En lo personal, me parece que hay miles de maneras de narrar un libro, y cada escritor hace una elección para su obra en cuanto a tiempo, puntos de vista, etc. Y esa elección tiene que ser coherente para la historia e ir en armonía con ella, en ningún momento hacer que el lector piense que el libro sería mejor si fuera narrado de otra manera. Illusions está contado en primera persona por DOS protagonistas (lo cual se vuelve bastante confuso para leer) y en forma de entradas de diarios íntimos. ¿Qué, ahora todo el mundo tiene diarios íntimos? Todo respecto a la organización de la novela y cómo es narrado arruinó la lectura para mí. NO ESTOY HABLANDO DE LA ESCRITURA (porque esa sin duda fue increíiiiible), sino de la narración de la historia. Fue aburrida, poco novedosa, pesada, nunca estaba pasando nada, lenta... Agh, fue tan deaj que me arruinó toda la lectura y me salté varias partes de las últimas 100 páginas porque ya no podía soportarlo. Y aaagggghhhhh. Mala elección, Madeline J. Reynolds, mala elección.

“And though I may still have to hide from those who would intend me harm, I can at least stop hiding from one person in particular... Myself.”
Profile Image for Jackie.
616 reviews42 followers
November 21, 2018
An interesting idea and an overall okay read that dives into the world of love and magic.

“Illusions” sets up a struggle between two rival magicians as one succeeds at doing the impossible causing the other to send in his apprentice as a spy to uncover just how he was able to pul off his latest trick.

This is very similar to the idea behind “The Prestige” only with real magic and instead of trying to outdo the other we have one trying to uncover the secrets behind the illusion only to find that he’s gotten more than he bargained for when he meets the man behind the mystery.

It took me a long while to get into this book which is unfortunate because on paper I should love this even the choice to have it told through diary entries and newspaper clippings add something exciting to the format of the story but with this it fell kind of flat for a majority of the book.

The romance side was nice and I think for both sides it progressed naturally for their characters as one struggled with the conflicts of the time in which they lived and the other with his firm stance against love due to his questionable past with the emotion and it was nice to see their back and forth monologues through their entries as the relationship moved forward.

If I had to sum this book up it would just be okay, it’s nothing too memorable but to pass the time it works.
Profile Image for Laila.
43 reviews17 followers
September 30, 2018
Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for giving me a copy of Illusions in exchange for honest feedback.

I really enjoyed this book. I would call it mature YA with a hint of fantasy. The story follows Thomas and Saverio, the apprentices to two rival performing magicians. At the start of the book, Thomas's employer reveals what seems to be an impossible stage trick. When Thomas and Saverio meet by chance, the instantly smitten look on Thomas's face leads Saverio to form a plan for discovering the secret to the trick.

Illusions is written in the form of diary entries, which I liked because it gave the characters of Thomas and Sav distinct voices. I found myself hooked to the storyline and eager to read on. I liked the characters and the LGBT+ romance was very sweet. The book has an interesting take on magic, while mostly staying rooted in the real world. I will say that the majority of the plot was predictable from reading the description, and it felt a bit repetitive at times in the middle. But I really liked the ending, and it was a fun, easy read overall. I would definitely recommend this to YA readers, especially if you like books about magicians.
Profile Image for Karyl Ahn White.
61 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2018
Illusions by Madeline J Reynolds

“And here I was thinking I wouldn’t have any fun in London”

My favorite line from the ARC.

I really enjoyed this book though it was a bit surprising. It was almost as if you’d climes I to your grandparent’s attic and finding a collection of diaries, letters, news clippings etc. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say there is interesting and unusual premise to the novel. There is romance which is beautifully written and so very heart touching that I find myself tearing up at times. And the magic! What a fantastic element! I think more than anything, this is a love story set in a backdrop of magic.

It is definitely a fantasy fiction. And wondrous at that. The only critique I might add is that the way it is written- I found very interesting, but towards the end some third person comes in and takes over the narrative. That was confusing to me. But overall it wasn’t
Such that it deterred me from falling in love with this story. I feel it is concluded in a way that leaves an opening for a second book, which I would definitely read.

There are some triggers such as sexual and abuse that would make me want to warn younger readers or others who may not be able to read such things
That being said, I still give this book 5/5 and would highly recommend it.

This book was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This review or portions thereof, will be posted on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as Litsy, IG, B&N, Pinterest, Facebook, and my own blog. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide all links at this time, as I am using my phone.
Profile Image for All Things Urban Fantasy.
1,921 reviews611 followers
December 20, 2018
The description of ILLUSIONS grabbed me--stage magicians battling it out to be the best at their craft and a secret romance between competitors. The historical setting and focus on illusionists captured my imagination.

ILLUSIONS is written in epistolary format. As such, the diary entries often feel like summaries. The characters have already lived through the events of the novel, and the diary entries highlight that fact. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief that anyone would write such a detailed diary entry or remember exact dialogue.

While ILLUSIONS may have worked better for me if the diary entries were combined with sections of immersive POV throughout, I did enjoy the characters. I felt for them and for the difficulties they faced. ILLUSIONS is worth working through the slow beginning to get at the heart of the novel.
1,056 reviews
November 8, 2018
take two magician's apprentices, in victorian london, and have one performing in a magic show with an inexplicable illusion and the other out to figure out how it's done, and you have the barebones of this story. illusions is told from the perspective of the two apprentices, thomas and saverio, through their journal entries and correspondence.

we learn that thomas is hiding a huge secret, he is the explanation for the magician's tricks. he possesses a real power, magic to transform and alter people's perception of the world around them. the how and whys of his magic are irrelevant to the novel, he simply possesses it and we accept it. it manifests physically and visually.

when thomas and saverio quite literally run into each other in manchester square, sav notes the interest in thomas's eyes. interest that he has no problem exploiting for his own gain. but the more time he spends with the younger, innocent man, the more he finds him appealing. thomas might be green, but something about sav makes him daring. and this strength allows saverio to let go of some of his walls and fall headlong in love with thomas.

there are obstacles to be overcome. the magician thomas is apprenticed to has a hold over him that seems impossible to esccape from. there's also the issue of saverio's lies. and thomas' parents' selling out of their only child. but the way this story finds a way for thomas and saverio is so beautiful. i couldn't put this down. when it ended i was just swooning.

**illusions will publish on november 6, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen) in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,012 reviews178 followers
October 24, 2018
The premise of this book is great. This is why I wanted to read this book. It would have been really good if the story had started out with the one scene towards the ending as the starting point of the story and then made its way backward. Due to the layout of the story being all in journal format. This way I would have been sucked into the story quicker. Not that I wasn't interested in the story but it just took me a bit longer. Also, it didn't help that I found the pacing of the story to move slowly. The second half of the story picked up speed.

In regards, to the two dueling illusionists Neville Wighton the Great and Paolo, they played second string to Thomas and Saverio. Thomas and Saverio were the voices of the story. Thomas really intrigued me. A man of mystery. Saverio is like the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who falls for the rich boy. The romance between them was real and mature. Nothing childish about it. The story does end on a high note.
Profile Image for Noyontara.
47 reviews7 followers
January 9, 2019
3.5 stars
A novel setting which could have done with a better execution. Much of the potential went to waste on a trope-filled love story. The plot was pretty linear- there was nothing very fresh or unexpected, save for the twist at the end. The closing seemed a bit abrupt, after the meandering first half of the book. Could have been better paced. The dual perspective was well distinguished. A personal contention- I wish there was more backstory on both Thomas and Saverio's childhoods, instead of focusing on overlapping details from the present. Sometimes, it did get slightly tedious to read the same occurrences twice over, without gleaning anything new. Moreover, the side characters could've been fleshed out a little more. Amelia held such promise, to have a glimpse of her side of the story would've been delightful. The writing flows in a way that makes you feel as if you're right inside the characters' heads, thinking their thoughts and feeling their emotions. I love how calculating and spry Saverio is- that is, until he becomes a lovesick puppy and seems to lose most of himself in the process. It was overall quite an enjoyable read. Would recommend to readers for its originality in setting, if not in its plot.
Profile Image for Sam.
213 reviews5 followers
March 19, 2019
I barely have enough words to express what I feel!!! This is one of the most incredible works I've ever read!!! And the ending, I thought for sure it was going to be another bury-your-gays trope, and I can describe how utterly delighted I am to find out aboit Thomas's trick!!! I really can't recommend this book to anyone and everyone enough!!!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dayle.
136 reviews
February 3, 2022
I don’t know why I keep reading romance novels, I hate them. The continuous pining, navel gazing and wondering makes the plot feel like trawling through molasses. But anyway, this is a cute story about two young men who fall in love and discover their best selves, set in the context of real magic in 1890’s England. A cute YA novel that includes some bad poetry.
218 reviews27 followers
December 18, 2018
What a uniquely written, piece of heaven!

description

Illusions is written in the form of journal entries, posters, letters, newspaper snippets, and I absolutely loved that. There were lots of original poems spread throughout the story, and God they were absolutely marvelous.

A sea of people, one face I see,

A world of sounds, one voice I hear.

A pair of eyes that lands on me,

A moment held forever dear.

A chance encounter, a twist of fate,

Two paths that now are crossed.

My mind left in a dreamlike state,

Now finding what was lost.

If the characters were annoying, and the plot was boring ( P.s; they weren't), I would have still loved this book because of the beautiful writing style. Thomas is so soft and talented, and this beautifully translated in his journal entries and poetry.

I feel lighter, I feel weightless, I feel free!

Thomas is hiding a dark secret. Something that makes him shy away from opening up to people and trusting them; something that makes him see every action as an act manipulation. But then Saverio captures his attention and breaks down the walls that he has built around his heart, brick by boring brick.

Do I not know any better by now? Have I not learned my lesson through each new blow that life has dealt me? I am irreversibly cursed.

Saverio is charismatic and charming, and though his intentions were only to use Thomas to get where he wants, he ends up falling in love and fighting for Thomas' affection.

Somehow, his fear was all the more endearing. It showed to me just how hard this all was for him but that, to him, I was worth the effort.

Both characters were on a journey with the same final destination, despite the different paths taken. Thomas had to break down the walls of trust issues to be able to fall in love, and Saverio had to take off the mask he has created that prevents him from attaching to just one lover and devoting his love for them.

Illusions is a magical historical fiction about finding oneself, love, betrayal, and forgiveness. The monsters starring this story are humans of greed, who will go into dark extremes to gain what they need. I absolutely adored Illusions, and fell in love with our young poet, Thomas.  We share a lot of traits and have similar wars thrown into our paves.

This is one of the best historical fiction books I have read this year, along with Of Captivity & Kings by E.Y Laster, and I can't wait to read more of  Madeline's books.

I want to start recommending my favorite reads to my friends, and for Illusions, I chose Kevs @ItsKevsNegron! This the type of romance I see you raving about on twitter, and I think you are going to enjoy it.
Profile Image for Elliott B..
48 reviews11 followers
February 12, 2022
Illusions
JAN 11 - 13 2019
1.5 Stars

Magic? Lgbt topics? Hell yes, you’ve said enough. Needless to say -- I really wanted to enjoy this one. But debut novels are the most unpredictable.

I absolutely struggled with this one. But I always try to get through a book, whether or not I’m enjoying it, in order to give a full and honest review. And I may have also kept reading in hopes it might get better.

It was an easy read, and could have easily been a great novel had it been written well. The plot had great potential. The characters had potential.

Synopsis: The story is between two apprentices of great rivaling magicians (Think the prestige, except if they had apprentices.), Thomas, is a shy boy with a big secret -- real magical powers which he uses to help his master perform his only genuine trick that draws in the crowds. Saverio, is confident he can slip Thomas into a dreamy romance in order to have him spill the secrets to the Magician’s great secret. But soon they find themselves possibly falling into something more real-- or are they both pretending to be something they’re not?

As I stated before-- The plot had real potential. I would read a fanfiction of this if someone had the time to spend and write it in a more interesting way.

But the book did not capture me as I hoped. If I was to suggest a change in one thing it outright would be the awful choice of the italicized cursive text used for multiple points in the book -- The poetry, some letters… but it was an impossible feat to try and read. Besides that, there were many things that all added up to ultimately have me disappointed.

The writing.
First, the epistolary/journal entry style choice seemed unnecessary and mostly entirely without purpose. The small amount of purpose it had could have come from elsewhere. I believe the novel would have been better in a usual style. The few parts that were were written without entries, were the most interesting and involving to read. When reading the entries, it felt like I was reading an annoying teenagers cliche diary. Ultimately, it just wasn’t written well in my opinion.

The characters and their connections with each other.
They both were quite annoying characters -- Thomas was less annoying, and more interesting, relatable and realistic by a landslide. Saverio was obnoxious both in character and in his writing. He was so sure of himself in his pursuit for Thomas, I couldn't help but be bothered. And he wrote with exclamation points constantly, which made it feel he was often too excited and had way too much energy for his own good-- It felt with everything he said it was over emphasized like a parent reading to their child and overemphasizing words as they do in try-hard films and some acting both purposefully and not for a desired effect which ends up looking immature in most cases. I felt this mainly in their over fluffy and over cheesy dramatic declarations of love. Almost in a very Romeo & Juliet theatre-type way, is what I mean.

Example: “O happy day, what joy is mine! My sweet young Thomas has finally agreed to see me! It would seem my words have gotten through to him. All I needed was a little bit of patience!”

When they were at points of disagreement, It played out in ways I would hope in real life would not be the same.

In the end, this was not a book for me, but it may suit others tastes just fine. I still hope MJR’s next book will be better, because god knows we need some good gay time travel.

This is my opinion and never meant to completely discourage anyone from reading anything they think they may like reading. Good luck and happy reading!
Profile Image for Olivia.
2,921 reviews63 followers
September 28, 2018
"Illusions" was an enthralling historical romance with supernatural elements. The premise set up at the beginning of the book is that we are reading the historical documents held by the London Metropolitan Archives- diary entries of Thomas Pendleton and Saverio Moretti (translated), magician's apprentices. Thomas is the apprentice for Neville Wighton, an up-and-coming magician, and a job which Thomas does not want- his parents have pushed him into it. Thomas would rather write poetry and study at the university he attends.

You see, Thomas is harboring a secret- one that could get him killed- he possesses actual magic. His parents think this is the best way to keep him safe, hidden amongst what is known to be the false magic of a stage magician. Wighton is using his abilities to perform a marvelous trick- he jumps off the stage and disappears, only to reappear in a balcony box. This trick is what is going to make Wighton's career, but Wighton is still verbally and physically abusive of his assistant. Thomas wishes only to be free.

Saverio (Sav) is an Italian assistant to the man who purchased him when he was young, Paolo il Magnifico- however, Saverio is ready to make a career on his own. When Paolo agrees to allow Sav to remain in England to study Wighton's secret for the marvelous disappearing trick, Sav knows that this is his chance. He sets his eyes on the assistant, Thomas, to seduce and get information. However, as he begins his seduction, he gets to know Thomas better and faces an internal struggle.

While the first part of the book seemed to drag, I was soon completely enthralled by the story and the format. Their relationship really drives the story forward and the format worked perfectly for this. The magic takes a backseat to the romance but is a current running underneath the novel, which has key roles to play at certain points. While I liked Thomas right away, Sav had to grow on me, largely through his own epiphanies and gains in terms of his own identity.

Overall, it was an amazing journey, and I found reading about Thomas and Sav really fascinating. Although not quite what I expected (I was expecting more about the magic than romance), I really enjoyed it as-is, and I wouldn't change a thing. I highly recommend for older teen readers and adults who like historical romance- this is definitely a worthwhile read!

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Ana on the Shelves.
414 reviews28 followers
October 21, 2018
If you are pondering about reading this book as a nice quick read, do it. But be aware and it’s also packed with a strong “punch of feels in the gut” and should be approached carefully.

This is the story of two magician apprentices: Thomas Pendelton and Saverio Moretti.

Thomas has a secret. He can do real magic. Saverio has a mission, learn the secret of Thomas’s mentor last trick that is enchanting people all over Victorian London.

Magicians, Victorian London, magic... let’s be honest here, this story has everything to sweep you away into a fascinating ride. And over all it’s almost perfectly executed.

I say “almost” because there are points in the beginning and especially in the ending that could have benefited of a bit more of work. Notably the end, that although it is sure to maintain the reader craving to finish the book, hissing at everyone that dare to distracted him, it wasn’t as good and rewarding as I would have wanted it to be. Yet I am still here trying to deal with all the feels that I have been left with so it was still worth it!

With that out of the way, what are the good points?

The story it’s told through the diaries of the two apprentices pointed above, fact that makes this whole book feel more intimate and sweet.

The writing is inviting and draws us to the private lives of our main characters.

Also the connections established between characters feel real, to the point that you don’t have trouble imagining them happening in the real world, not like other romances where everything feels to hasten and build over sand.

And over all the characters are well built with both strong and weak points. Even the antagonists do not feel like complete one dimensional brick walls that are only there to make the heroes tremble.
Concluding, you just need to read this book!

With her debut Madeline J. Reynolds made a strong and lovely entrance on the literary world and has set herself as an author to be aware of.
Profile Image for Emetis.
95 reviews37 followers
January 25, 2020
“Manchester Square. What a cruel irony, that the very first place I laid eyes on my love is where I would also watch him die!”

I took my time reading this book and I am glad for it. The hard part is writing THIS, putting my feelings into words; for this book it broke my heart, put it back together and then broke it once more. Never have I in my short life cried because of a paperback as I have at the ending of this book. It was truly a delightful journey and I am glad that I had a chance to read it, otherwise I would have missed on a great book .
I suppose I have this book to thank for, for the way I feel right now and the way my writing sounds so melancholy. For I cannot think of a better way to put my feelings into words than to write them with an 90’s dialect.
I myself like a plot driven book, however after reading this I cannot think of it being written any other way. It was perfect in every sense and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We get to see both Saverio’s and Thomas’s perspectives and therefore their feelings, fears and their love for each other. What starts as a fake relationship soon develops into something completely different and beautiful.
Oh, the love that made them to go to great lengths just to make the other happy! My heart aches, for they had to hide their feelings because of the fear of being called abnormal.



“The world conditions us to fear that which society and theology have not deemed “natural”
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ashley.
28 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2018
At first, I was not sure that I would enjoy this book since it is written completely in journal format and I typically cannot get into this writing style. This was not the case when it came to Illusions! I was absolutely entranced within the first few chapters.

It is such a beautiful story set in 1880s Europe, with two very compelling main characters. First you have Thomas, who is a sweet young man that loves his poetry and has a secret that if found out could put his life in jeopardy. Then you have Saverio, who has had a tough life and wants nothing more than to be center stage. I loved the fact that there were alternating perspectives because you are really able to get an insight into both characters and their mindsets. From this you also get to see the growth in both Thomas and Saverio.

Overall, this book was a magnificent read. A truly wonderful and emotional LGBT romance that will keep enthralled until the very end. This book ruined me in the best way possible and I would definitely recommend reading it.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you Netgalley and Entangled Publishing for giving me the chance to read and review this book early!
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