Author: Heather Dixon
Series: No series
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Published: May 19th, 2015
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5)
The summary of Illusionarium from Goodreads:
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.
I was a little nervous to read this book. I really enjoyed Dixon’s Entwined, but the summary’s likening of the book to The Night Circus, which I did not enjoy at all, made me nervous. I wanted to like the book, both because of the author and because the idea behind it sounded promising, but it just felt a little too disconnected for me.
I did enjoy the worlds Dixon created. They’re alternate worlds with some recognizable places from our world. Jonathan’s original world is one where a disease is ravaging women. It kills in days and there’s no cure, no hope to stop the spread. Jonathan and his father are ordered to help find a cure when the queen becomes ill.
Through a series of events, Jonathan enters an alternate universe where the cure exists, but there are an entirely new set of problems he must face. People have become addicted to illusions, and thus people who can illusion, like Jonathan, are highly valuable.
Both worlds are unique, and the explanations for parallel universes was extremely believable. I liked that futures hinged on single choices and how those decisions can have major impacts on people.
Jonathan himself was a nice character, albeit one who trusts too easily. He seemed a little naive at times, but his intentions were always good. I liked a couple secondary characters a little more than Jonathan, though, Anna especially. She exemplified bravery and fight. She wasn’t going to give up until she had nothing left. Even when it seemed like she had little left to fight for, she kept fighting.
Everything felt a little disconnected and sudden. There wasn’t much build-up before things happened, and once things began, it was like a race to keep up. Each piece felt like it could have been part of something good, but there never felt like there was really anything connecting the pieces. There wasn’t a thread weaving together the characters and actions that I could grab on to and follow through the story. There was a lot of potential, but it just didn’t feel like it came together.
Just because I didn’t enjoy the book doesn’t mean others won’t. I think one of the problems, in my opinion, was that this might have been appropriate for a younger audience than myself. The world building was fantastic, but other parts just didn’t work for me. However, I think it would be a wonderful introduction for younger teens into the science fiction genre.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.