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I Belong

Early Review: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

IllusionariumTitle: Illusionarium

Author: Heather Dixon

Genre: YA Fantasy, Science Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 19, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062001051 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062001054 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Zed


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.

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.

Excerpt: No

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.


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