Greenwillow Books (May 19, 2015) 368 pages
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.My Rating: 3/5 stars
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.
Both while reading, and long after I finished this book, my mind has been debating whether or not I liked it. It's odd! I typically like odd books, but this one went so far away from my expectations that my mind has had a hard time deciding. I don't suspect it will appeal as much to those, like me, that adored Entwined. Entwined was a beautiful fairy tale re-telling that I don't hesitate to recommend to anyone and everyone. With this book, Dixon has proved that her talent is much too great to tie down to one type of book. The truth is, though, that I was wanting another beautiful fairy tale.
About of the third of the way through, I was so thrown off, I actually went to read the description of the book. (In case you're not aware, I prefer going into a book without knowing much of anything about it.) It was described as a cross between Pixar and The Night Circus. I haven't read The Night Circus, but I do love Pixar movies. I realized that I probably should have been imagining animation as I read it. Once I did so, I enjoyed it much more. Honestly, this would make an amazing anime movie. After seeing the Pixar comment, anime was the kind of animation I pictured and felt was most appropriate for the story. (I felt it was too dark for Pixar animation.) The description also mentions humor, but I just didn't pick up on humor.
I imagine Illusionarium will appeal more to the guy realm than Entwined ever could. The main character is even male. I had been picturing a female narrator. It is revealed pretty early in the story that a male is talking, but my mind still had to reprogram a bit. Sadly, he wasn't my favorite book guy. He would randomly break into fights, and I found it a bit crazy and ridiculous. Of course, he has growth through the story, but he never fully won me over.
Once again, it's on the odd side. There's dimensional travel, which I've had a hard time liking in other books in the past. There's also strange, deformed creatures. While I don't have much experience at all in the "steampunk" genre, I'd label this as steampunk.
I DO want to reread this book! I feel that if I could reread it while better knowing how very(VERY!!!) different from Entwined it is, I could enjoy it much more, but it just wasn't my favorite book the first time through.
*I was provided an e-ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.