Author: Kiersten White
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Published: September 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
“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 was easily a 4-star or higher story for me for most of the novel. It's White's strongest offering to date and thoroughly entertaining from the get-go. However the ending was too rushed and messy to really withstand any kind of scrutiny and ultimately detracted from the overall experience. That said, Illusions of Fate is a creative and diverse YA fantasy with a lot to offer. Its relative shortness makes it easy to breeze through Jessamin and Finn's story in just one sitting.
The strongest part of the novel lies with its main character. Jessamin is a great example of a well-rounded protagonist, especially for YA audiences. She's smart, capable, prideful, angry, and determined. She's also proactive and refuses to let anyone control her life -- even if they have her best interest at heart. I loved her honest drive to learn and to be herself. She's a refreshing character for many ways but her POC heritage in a fantasy is rare and all the more welcome.
Finn is her love interest and sometimes counterpart and sometimes foil. Their relationship progresses pretty naturally and is enjoyable. White takes her time to craft a real connection between the two teens and it makes for a slow-burn romance. Eleanor is another great character. She's pretty stereotypically feminine but White shows that there's nothing wrong with liking dress and gossip, for Eleanor is also smart, cunning, and more than just a pretty face. However, outside of those three, the characterization, from allies to enemies, remains somewhat shallow and spotty.
I wanted more from the worldbuilding in Illusions of Fate -- regarding both the overall political layout and in how the supernatural element integrated into this world. There is some information about Melei (Jessamin's home) and Albion, but much less about the world abroad unless its mentioned in conjunction with Hallin magic. The magic systems themselves also need more expansion. White does a cursory job of illuminating how they're used and how they're different but it feels flimsy.
This was a fun, fast read. While it wasn't perfect, it was creative and memorable. I loved Jessamin and the romance was pretty cute and shippable. It also made me willing to give this author another try. If you're a fan of YA fantasy, this would be a good recommendation for an afternoon's entertainment.