Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon {review + giveaway}

by Heather Dixon
♦publisher: Greenwillow Books
♦release date: May 19th, 2015
♦hardcover 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
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.

Review:  Illusionarium seems to be one of those books that people are either loving or hating. Both sides have their reasons, and I find that awesome!  It reminds me once again about the fabulous diversity of readers, how the wonderful idea behind the phrase “to each his own” seems to apply to reading more than any other thing in the world!

For me, Illusionarium was absolutely fantastic! An adventurous, imaginative, unique, and wildly creative story of not one, but two alternate steampunk versions of Victorian London, with a pacing that barely leaves you time to catch your breath.  The main character, Jonathan, is a quirky, dry-humored, slightly awkward scientist-type. He and his little sister, Hannah have a good sibling rivalry going where intelligence is concerned, but it’s also a very sweet and protective relationship. The author uses the amusing addition of annotations to add funny little bits of information and comments to Jonathan’s POV, and I loved that. 

I liked watching Jonathan’s character develop throughout. He starts off a bit light and naïve, but his outlook and aggression darkens as he faces this bleak new world and as his desperation grows to find a way to save his family and he’s put off again and again.  I also liked the enemy-to-ally friendship that grows between Jonathan and Lockwood, they find themselves forced together and a bond grows through mutual respect…eventually. One word of warning, despite what the cover might imply, don’t look to this one if you’re in the mood for romance. You won’t find it here. But I was happy with that---with such a desperate and time-sensitive mission at hand, it might have bothered me if Jonathan had stopped to flirt. 

The idea behind illusioning is a clever mix of science and magic.  The illusions can only be seen by someone who is inhaling a hallucinogenic drug called fantillium, but if someone is being attacked or killed by illusion, their body will react as if it’s really happening. In the twisted alternate society, the people have made illusioning a bloodsport.  Talented illusionists are able to conjure illusions to outwit each other in competition. But there is a gruesome downside to overdosing on the drug. The concept and world building that went along with it demands a stretch of the imagination, but it’s a wild idea and makes for stunningly visual storytelling. 

Maybe on another day, in another mood, I might have nitpicked this one a bit more. But I found this incredibly entertaining, imaginative, and exactly the story I was craving. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I definitely recommend giving it a try!

 Find Heather Dixon online:  Website  •   Instagram

Purchase Illusionarium:  Indiebound  •  BookDepository  •  Amazon


I have an extra copy of this one so I'm going to pass it on! 
•US mailing address only please
•Ends June 3rd, 2015
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great review. I've been wanting to read this one. And honestly, I'm relieved to know that it doesn't revolve around a romance.

  2. Awesome review! I can't wait to read this one and your review makes me want to read it even more!

  3. Bri (Books and Ashes)May 20, 2015 at 2:26 PM

    Oh, now this book sounds even more interesting than before! I think I definitely want to read it. The reviews for it I've read have been pretty back and forth about if it was good or not, but I agree that both sides have points if the things I've seen pointed out come across the way they did to that reader.

  4. This sounds like a book that I would really like. I don't need romance to find a novel enjoyable, and I really love seeing marked character growth. The fast pacing and interesting premise promise to deliver just the kind of fun read that I love to kick back and relax with. I'm really glad that you enjoyed it so much... it makes me want to read it even more!

  5. ChristinaBookAddictMay 21, 2015 at 5:16 AM

    Awesome review! I am excited to check this one out. I love the setting, so that is what initially sold me. I'm glad you liked this one!

  6. I enjoyed reading the review. This book sounds wonderful, and I love that it has parallel worlds. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  7. Heeeh, I had the worst luck with this book, lol :) I hated it so much. Sigh. But, I do understand why you loved it so :D And I too love seeing all the different opinions about it. <3 Anyway. Such a gorgeous review Becky :D I'm pleased you liked it, and finding it a bit fun we had different opinions about it ;p <3

  8. Courtney WhisenantMay 22, 2015 at 12:06 PM

    I'm pretty sure I will fall into the "love it" category! After reading Entwined, I was an instant fan of Heather's writing!! I happen to be a big fan of steampunk too. This is my most anticipated book of 2015. :)

  9. It's that a nice change sometimes? LOL I love a good romance but some stories just don't need it!

  10. Thanks, Kaitlyn! I hope you enjoy it!

  11. Isn't it interesting how that works? I love seeing how different people take away different things from stories!

  12. If you're excited for any book, I definitely say give it a try no matter what reviews say! :D You don't want to miss out on something you might really love! ;)

  13. I hope you do like it, Monica! Romance definitely has a place in my heart, too, but sometimes when books are really excited and the character stops to swoon over some love interest, i just think "What??" LOL
    Hope you get the chance to check this one out!

  14. The setting was really neat, one of the "Londons" was completely altered by it's dependence on this drug. I really liked the steampunky world building in this!

  15. You're welcome, Anita! I love parallel worlds, too!

  16. I was sad that you were so disappointed in this one, Carina--but I loved reading your wonderfully honest review! I always love seeing what books you and I agree on and which ones we don't! :D

  17. I hope you do find yourself loving it, Courtney! Though I warn--I know a few who loved Entwined and didn't care for this one! Actually, Entwined was just "okay" for me, but I did love her gorgeous writing even then!

  18. Great review! I really love this book! I've been waiting to read this one and have my own copy! It really seems to be interesting, I love it! Thank you so much for this chance!