Title: Illusions of Fate
Author: Kiersten White
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Summary: Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare in this lush, romantic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White.
“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”
Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.
Kiersten White captured readers’ hearts with her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy and its effortless mix of magic and real-world teenage humor. She returns to that winning combination of wit, charm, and enchantment in Illusions of Fate, a sparkling and romantic new novel perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, The Madman’s Daughter, and Libba Bray.
If I’m being totally honest, I knew nothing about this book when I ordered it, I just saw the gorgeous cover, noticed the word magic in the summary and I was sold. And seriously you guys, take a second to admire that cover, it’s so pretty. But when I picked this up from the library, I was alarmed to see how short it was. I felt cheated. I was promised a tale with interesting characters, a swoony romance, great world-building, magic and fate… Kiersten White couldn’t honestly fit all of that in a measly 275 pages, could she?
Well, the answer actually ended being up mostly yes. I know, I was surprised too.
The book starts with Jessamin, a young lady from the island of Melei has moved to Albion, to study in a college and avoid the hordes of eligible husbands her mother keeps flinging at her. One day she runs into a handsome young man who saves her from being assaulted, even though she could have taken care of it herself. Unfortunately for her, Finn, the handsome young man previously mentioned, falls madly in love with her, dragging her in the middle of a political war involving magic.
I really enjoyed Jessamin as a character. She was brave and smart, and I really liked that she was pretty capable to taking care of herself and working her way out of tough situations without always needing to be rescued like a damsel in distress. Also, she was super stubborn which is something I can always respect in a lady. I wish that her cultural differences had been addressed a little more, but her mother made sure she was raised like a proper young lady from Albion. Which I couldn’t help but feel was the author’s excuse to make her exotic and different, but not too different, if you know what I mean. And it was nice to see a girl who is normal for once, but then takes it upon herself to learn all she can, so she can fend for herself or feel like she wasn’t at such a disadvantage.
Finn was also a really fun character. While his back story was a little lacking and predictable, I could his personality to be strong enough that he was likable and memorable. I also really liked that he wasn’t too proud or stubborn to let the women around him help him out in the way that they could. I like that he recognized their strengths and didn’t try to keep them in the dark. Also, his sly personality was so fun, I found myself constantly laughing at him getting Jessamin all riled up with some charming, witty banter.
While I was a little alarmed at first with Finn falling madly in love with Jessamin after just meeting her then giving her his shadow, she was very opposed to the whole thing which made the relationship feel more realistic. A lot of time went by in this book, time for them to study and work together, to get to know each other, a reasonable amount of time for them to fall in love, and I was so happy. Also, they worked so well together and respected each other, but were still flirty and playful, so there was passion but also a good foundation for a lasting relationship. It felt realistic and cohesive, not forced at all, which was rather refreshing. When I’m reading a book and finally get in far enough to realize that there in no was for a love triangle or insta-love situation, I have to let out a huge sigh of relief.
My main problem with this book however, was the villain. Lord Downpike was very sinister through the whole book, obviously not above getting his hands dirty. He was constantly plotting and scheming, wiggling his way out of situations or turning them to his advantage, and I found him intriguing. So I was waiting the whole book for the big reveal, the true reason for him being so evil, or the back story to show us why he was the way he was. But when the time came, it was very disappointing and rushed. I just kind of sat there for a second and was like, “Really? I mean, really?!”
The plot itself was very engaging and I liked the world this story took place in. Since the book was under 300 pages long, some aspects were obviously a little lacking, but the political and magic parts were fairly well explained and interesting. Also, the pacing was great. Right when you felt like things were maybe calming down, the author lured you into a false sense of security, only to throw something new at you and suck you back in. I love when I’m reading and being kept on my toes, knowing something is coming up but not sure when or what it’s going to be. Between Lord Downpike trying to basically take over the world, and the sweet romance between Finn and Jessamin, I couldn’t put it down.
Overall, I heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book but I was pleasantly surprised. I flew through this book, unable to put it down for a minute without thinking about the characters or wondering what was going to happen next. And that ending, holy crap, that ending… it got me. Curse you Kiersten White, curse you. I was just a surprised to see that this was only one book. With all the world building and great chracters, it felt like there was so much potential to have these be a series, but I guess not. I find that I’m rather disappointed.