Monday, July 07, 2014

A Fascinating Victorian Romantic Thriller - Review of "the Illusionists" by Rosie Thomas

Rosie Thomas has conjured up a wonderful and fascinating tale in "The Illusionists."  Set in Victorian London, the novel evokes the spirit and style of many of Dickens' novels and characters.  The work revolves around a troupe of illusionists and their supporters who perform at the Palmyra Variety Hall on the Strand.  Devil Wik is the nominal head of the troupe.  He, along with the dark-hearted dwarf Carlo and Devil's boyhood friend, Jasper, all love the irrepressible Eliza.  Devil eventually wins her heart and her hand.

Eliza is the real heart of this story.  She represents women who do not want to settle for a pre-programmed and proscribed role as dutiful housekeeper, wife and mother.  She has other aspirations.  The author very cleverly intertwines Eliza's story with that of an automaton who has been built by a mad Swiss inventor by the name of Heinrich.  Heinrich has built and programmed Lucie to dance with him on the stage. Using the new technology of voice recording, he captures Eliza's voice and places it inside of Lucie.  That act of capturing involves a wonderful foreshadowing.of events to follow.  And it is clear throughout the book that Eliza is no automaton.

Rosie Thomas has won several awards for Romantic Novel of the Year, but she writes in a style that far surpasses that of the typical "romance novelist."  She uses metaphor and intricate themes as she lays out a fascinating tale with many twists and turns.  The language is rich and evocative.  If you like magic, Victorian England or simply a great read, then "The Illusionists" will delight you.



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