Rating: 4 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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.
This is one of those rare times that I truly wish that a standalone was a series. I loved this. It exceeded my expectations in every aspect.
I loved every ounce of this. The length was perfect (even though a part of me is saying, “MOOORRRREEEEE”).
A lot of the time when I read YA books, I find that there are sections of the book I get completely bored at, typically the last third of the book or so, because it seems authors have difficulty ending a book, especially if it’s a standalone or the final in a series (which is understandable), and because of this, the book usually looses a star or two for me.
This had none of that nonsense.
The ending – while some might say was too quick and didn’t cover enough – was perfect in it’s entirely to me. Not too long, but not too short, either. It summed up everything in a quick manner without loosing me or making me feel melancholy for a not-so-great-ending.
The romance was brilliant. There is no insta-love, no real love-triangle. Jessamin does not attract every hot guy in a five mile radius, but is extremely beautiful (of course. What did you expect?). She does not care all too much for what she looks like, nor what others see her as or what guy is teasing her.
In other words, Jessamin gives no hoots.
She does not fall for Finn’s good looks – but isn’t blind to them, of course. And, honestly . . . Finn. Oh dear.
I forgot what fictional guys can do to me.
I’m sorry, but Finn is freakin’ adorable. (And, yes, in my humble opinion, that is far better than being smokin’ hot.) I was swooning over him from the very beginning.
“His lips are soft and warm and fit mine like the answer to an equation I didn’t know I was trying to solve.”
There’s not a ton to say about Finn except that he is not lacking in any way. I was (basically) preening all over him.
He’s not the A-typical smokin’ hot love interest you find so much in YA books. He isn’t full of himself . . . much. He’s an eligible bachelor (Inner Hannah: “I’ll say.”) and is full of himself every now and then, but he isn’t lusty, isn’t ever rude, and never thinks himself bigger and better than other men. Does he get jealous and have all those other male emotions when dealing with courting Jessamin? Of course. But he deals with them so much better than other male characters in YA fiction. He doesn’t get his feathers all in a ruffle over such things, and is calm and devoted. Honestly, he seemed older for his age, and, gosh darn it, I quite certainly liked the guy.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a true Kiersten White novel without the witty humor dropped on us all from time-to-time.
Only instead of getting wet, as the water washes over his body, Sir Bird’s feathers turn . . . blue.
Bright, brilliant, shimmering blue.
Squawking in outrage, Sir Bird hops and flies around the room, frantically shaking his feathers. He lands on the desk with a scrabble of clawed feet, then begins trying to bite off the color.
“Ha!” Finn says, pointing at his knuckles. “Now you’re black and blue, too!”
I can’t help but laugh at my poor, panicking bird. Not to mention the ridiculous pettiness of Finn’s magic show. Picking up Sir Bird, I stroke his feathers and speak softly to him. “Hush now. I’ll make him fix you. You’re still very handsome, but blue isn’t your color, is it?”
He caws mournfully, still pulling at his own feathers.
He puts his hands behind his back, trying to look innocent. “What? He deserved it.”
“He’s a bird. You can’t really find this much satisfaction in revenge against a bird, can you?”
His voice comes out just a tad petulant. “He started it.”
It was such a relief reading this. Really. I miss the books with the kind of bland humor that leaving me gasping for breath. And this gave it to me.
I also loved the setting and side characters. Guess what, guys? They actually had depth to them!
There is no black and white, good and bad characters here, as it should be. The villain can sometimes be seen as the good guy in the right light. The good can sometimes seem suddenly weak and useless. It’s an odd balance that has no right answer, and it was done wonderfully here.
Usually I’m not a huge fan of magically mixed historical settings, but here I loved it. There were no long, dull paragraphs about the world abound, but what we need to know about the settling is either left up to our imagination or is shown to us later is need be. Thank the heavens for that.
Jessamin is funny and witty. Even after being tortured and had so much information withheld from her, she still stays brave and pretty darn funny. She sure as heck is not going to go down without a fight, and you love her for it. She’s completely realistic in that she’s fallible and human and has doubts all her own, but she’s still going to look the devil in the eye and tell him to take a chill-pill. She’s one of the better female leads I’ve read in a while, especially one set in a world with little to no women’s rights (basic eighteenth century England, really).
She’s not up and screaming about women’s rights all the time, but she fights all the same. She knows how to take advantage of the men around her who would rather see her ignorant and uneducated. For Pete’s sake . . . the girl is making her own way through a school that does not want her there just so she can go back to her homeland to teach her people.