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4.34  ·  Rating details ·  103 ratings  ·  34 reviews
London, 1873.

Returning home from his travels across the globe, Walter Balanchine is noted for the charms, potions and locket hanging from his neck. Living in a cemetery with his pet panther, Sinbad, word soon spreads of his healing and magical abilities and Walter becomes a sought after party performer.

But a powerful force lies behind the parlour tricks, one strong eno
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published March 31st 2019 by Endeavour Venture
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4.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  103 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
My thanks to NetGalley and Endeavour Media for a review copy of this book.

I requested this one because the combination of Victorian England and magic was one that sounded exciting—something like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, perhaps. This story opens with Tom Winter, a music teacher who gives the daughters of the well-to-do piano lessons, being cheated when purchasing some herrings for supper at the docks. He notices some shadows, a flicker of something, only to find that his old friend, Wal
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I started my blog in 2013, Stephanie Elmas was one of the first authors to contact me to request a review of her book. That book was ‘The Room Beyond'. I was so pleased that she did because that was a real gem of a read. When I saw that she had another book out, this time with Endeavour Press and the main character being Walter Balanchine, who appeared in the previous book, I just had to read it.

The story begins in 1873 in London’s East End with Tom Winter being reunited after 3 years with
May 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who want to become severely depressed

This book is what happens, when an author is not just a bit in love with herself, but thoroughly self-indulgent instead. Convoluted, repetitive and horribly cluttered prose, a grimdark setting which turns G.R.R. Martin into a writer of candy-floss fluff. A book which wallows in the alleged grime and horror of 19th century London. I mean, even Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy write rip-roaring humour compared to this.

I need brain bleach now.

It took me less than five pages and I was terminally depressed. I
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Publishing Date: June 2018

Publisher: Endeavour

ISBN: 9781549655173

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 4.8/5

Publisher’s Description: London, 1873. Walter Balanchine returns home from his travels with an air of mystery and magic about him. His lockets, potions and spells soon attract a favourable audience in Victorian London. But a labyrinthine path of sorcery, scandal and mortal danger unfolds when Walter encounters the beautiful and brooding Tamara.

Review: This novel received very high reviews but for one mill
K.S. Marsden
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
In the late 19th Century, the mysterious Walter Balanchine is seen as a magician, with his clever slight of hand. There are so many secrets, and so much danger, for him and his friends.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wasn't really sure what I expected from this, and I'm still not entirely sure!
It's an Historical drama, with suspense and discovery. There's friendship, and the bizarre family you find yourself with, as you pick up people through life.

It star
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog-tour-book
Set in London 1873 with Tom Winter as he catches up with old friend Walter Balanchine and his stowaway Kayan.  Walter has been away travelling in The East learning healing and magic.  Walter is asked to perform magic at a birthday party and that is where Tom first sets eyes on Tamara.  She is there with her mother and a man presumed to be her father, but is actually Cecil Hearst, her soon to be husband.  As the story progresses a picture is built up that delves into the lives and histories of th ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Find all my book reviews, plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts, on my blog:

'Walter Balanchine was still the most unusual looking individual that most people had ever seen.’

The author has created a wonderful character in Walter Balanchine. He’s like a young Sherlock Holmes with his acute powers of observation, mastery of disguise and gift for turning up at exactly the right moment – but with a touch of the exotic East
Hélène Louise
(I thank Netgalley and Endeavour Media for sending me the ARC in exchange for my honest review)

4,5 stars

I grew quite enthralled by this unassuming story, which unfolded slowly and effortlessly. The writing is elegant and simple, for an evocative tale, rather old fashioned in a good kind of way.

The characters are all endearing or atrocious, with interesting villains, and if the story tells about some sinister deeds, the writer never insists with atrocious descriptions and details - the facts spea
My word, this is lovely.

The writing is spot on. the characters delightful and 'real' and the tension enough to keep me engrossed throughout. It's dark and gritty but there is a lot of beauty to it in an odd sort of way.

The historical aspect is just right - and yet it doesnt have that 'forced' feel to it. A dark story with great characters that kept me wondering right to the end.

5 stars - I never ONCE felt bored.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars - an enchanting tale set in 19th century London.

Tom Winter is ecstatic when his best friend, Walter Balanchine, returns after three years roaming the globe. Walter is a very strange man indeed. He is very tall and thin with an oddly elongated head, and has some very strange talents supplemented by an array of strange potions he brought back with him, along with a stowaway named Kayan and a black panther named Sinbad.

After staging some magic shows and 'healing' a couple of people Walter
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a lovely book full of magic and mystery! There are some dark and sad moments, but the mystery of everything kept me reading and I am glad I did! I have 2 boys under the age of 4 so reading time is very restricted for me, which makes me a slow reader, but when I got to the final 1/4 of the book I would try to hide in the bathroom just to find out what happened next!
Malvika Jaswal
As the case with most books with me, the first thing that caught my eye for this particular one was the book cover. Done in gorgeous peacock blue background with a chain hung with some interesting looking charms on it, it looked absolutely stunning and extremely mysterious. Next, I read the synopsis which proclaimed the book to be historical fiction, another tick in the correct box for me. 

While the synopsis and the cover would point to the story being about Walter Balanchine, this is really the
Karen Cole
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the very start of Illusion I was transported to the streets of London in Victorian England; the fog, the grime, the ever pervasive smells. The prose here is so evocative, even the simple act of buying fish is brought vividly to life. These are the streets of urchins and ruffians, beggars and thieves. It is here that we first meet Tom Winter, former workhouse boy turned piano teacher. Tom is at the docks, buying fish for his Ma, but becomes aware of the 'dried peas and eels' feeling that mea ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to Netgalley, the Publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book in return for my honest review and opinion.

This was an intriguing book. It starts in 1873, with Tom Winter, a pianist who has been down on his luck, but is slowly starting to get his life on track; he has a job, a girlfriend Sarah, who he doesn't love but cares deeply for and she helps with his sick mother, Molly. Tom then runs into his oldest and best friend, Walter Balanchine, who is mysterious and magic
I loved everything about this book. So beautifully written, it captured my imagination immediately and drew me into the Victorian world of Tom Winter, musician and piano teacher, and his unusual friend, Walter Balanchine, a magician, illusionist, healer and mystic.

It is Walter’s return to London from the Far East, after an absence of three years, and his rescue of Tom from a potentially dangerous situation that sets the pace of this story. The momentum continues through many twists and turns rig
Jen Solak
This book was very different from what I expected and I loved that it took different turns with each section. From the beginning chapters I had not expected that we would end up with multiple points of view and it added a wonderful layer to the book. We begin our story from Tom Winter’s point of view and things are a bit confusing at first. When I started the book I wasn’t sure I would like it because I didn’t feel any connection to Tom or what was going on his life,when Walter shows up things g ...more
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Illusion follows the adventures of Walter Balanchine, an enigmatic magician / healer recently returned from the East with a young protegee. He encounters his childhood friend, Tom Winter, and they find notoriety in entertaining the upper classes with elaborate illusions. At one of his performances, Tom encounters and becomes enamored on the beautiful Tamara Huntingdon, doomed to marry against her will. The lovers endure hardship a
TheBookishFairy (Lauren)
This book is perfect for fans of historical fiction. It is based in the 1800s in London and Somerset. It initially centres around Tom, a young man who escaped the Workhouse and his friend Walter. Walter is an illusionist and becomes well know around London for creating incredible shows and for healing those with ailments.

Tom and Walter become embroiled in a plan to help a woman called Tamara escape from an arranged marriage. Not much more can be said without spoiling the plot!

I will say that thi
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Returning home from his travels with a stowaway named Kayan, Walter Balanchine is noted for the charms, potions and locket hanging from his neck. Finding his friend Tom Winter’s mother unwell, he gives her a potion he learned to brew in the Far East. Lucid and free from pain, the old woman remembers something about Walter’s mother.
Living in a cemetery with his pet panther Sinbad to keep the body snatchers away, word soon spreads of his healing and magical abilities and he becomes a sought after
Nicki Markus
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-historical
Illusion was a captivating tale of historical magical realism. The characters and their respective situations immediately caught my interest, and held it until the end. I did find myself a little disconcerted about a third through, with the disappearance of one of the main characters, but all soon became clear. Elmas wove an intriguing spell of mystery throughout the story that always kept me turning the page to find out more. Overall, a fun, quick read for fans of magical realism and historical ...more
Lel Budge
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when reading the official blurb, but I loved it. There’s mystical Walter, small Kayan, a black panther, unrequited love and real love all set against a grim and miserable London and a country house in a bog in Somerset. The author has woven a realistic world with Walter’s magic and it is sad and happy at the same time. It’s one of those books you can’t put down until it’s finished, but then I also didn’t want it to end. Well worth a read.

I would like
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an enchanting read! I love the overlapping tales of Tom, Walter and Tamara. This book is filled with magic and mystery - it's incredibly difficult to put down. Set in 1873 England, the characters and setting are wonderfully detailed and described. The villain is loathsome and makes the story that much more interesting.

*I would like to thank the author/publisher/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review*
This books starts slow but once you're involved you cannot put it down.
It leads in a Victorian world that is full of magic and realistic at the same time.
I loved the characters that are well written and the vilains that are quite interesting.
It was a very enjoyable read and a fascinating trip.
I never read any other book by this writer and I'm surely going to to follow her writing career.
Many thanks to Endeavour Media and Netgalley for this ARC
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you! All opinions are my own.

Illusion invites you to a magical, atmospheric, moody Victorian London. Vivid characters, elements of mystery and - well, illusion - weave quite an enchanting story that I really enjoyed. It's my first book by Stephanie Elmas, but it certainly won't be my last.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephanie Elmas is a wonderful world builder. From the very start she captures the essence of life in London in the late 1800’s. Starting a bit slowly, this story quickly enthralls you and is hard to put down. With magic, mystery, captivating characters, and a hateful villain, I found this to be an overall fun read and fans of magic and historical fiction will enjoy this.
Patrick May
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful read!

If you like intrigue and mystery, thrills and excitement, love and heartbreak, and of course, magic, then this is for you. A wonderful story that is not too long for it's own good, as some of the fantasy epics can be, with the charm that accompanies all tales in which the characters capture your soul. Most enjoyable.
albert e s gamage
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful old fashioned read!

The writing style is exquisite, the story is entrancing, villain you can boo/hiss at, an enigmatic hero with a mysterious history, illusion upon illusion, multiple enjoyable characters and, a black panther!
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Magically marvelous.

Conjured vivid images of early 19th century London with very evil bad guys to loathe and protagonists that you could fall in love with and want to read more of in future stories.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is magical.

I beg the author to hurry with more adventures for our enchanting Walter.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book.I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
Karen Green
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I loved this book more than most I have read recently. It was quirky, captivating, refreshing and so well written.......roll on the next one. Thank you. 👏😇
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Stephanie Elmas was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Czech mother but spent most of her childhood in Bristol. She studied English at university in London. She has worked as a head hunter, taught English in Japan and returned to university to complete a Masters in Victorian fiction. It was here that she developed her interest in the dark dangerous world of Victorian sensation writing. Ste ...more
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