I had no idea what to expect with Cruel Illusions. First off I heard illusion magic. And I do love a good magic trip meets fantasy. But then I heard vampires and vampire hunting? Keep reading for my full thoughts.
Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.
But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.
But they’ve been waiting for her.
The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Cruel Illusions is one of those books which consistently surprises you. There’s vampires and magic, family secrets and revenge. The magic was fascinating to me because it merges illusion magic with this idea of receiving our magic from the applause of others. People almost ‘feed’ our magic. This becomes a very interesting juxtaposition with the vampires. They obviously feed off the blood of others. Immediately, Cruel Illusions begins to complicate this dynamic.
And that complication only gets more intriguing as the book develops. As the consequences for power and ambition, for family secrets and revenge, only begin to bloom. Can we embrace power, discover our potential, without sinking into the very enemies we seek to destroy? For those who want a dangerous magical competition Cruel Illusions delivers. And for those who heard vampires and thought, “what?”, there are definitely these beloved members of the undead. While I wished that the vampires were explored a bit more, what else can you expect from a vampire hunting story?
Cruel Illusions is a fabulous stand alone fantasy. There were some elements, especially towards the end, where I just wanted a bit more depth. When the dominoes are falling and all the kind of resolution and pieces are being introduced, I wanted to sink more into the developments. Into the consequences of thinking only of people in terms of monsters and heroes. This line which is explored between “who is the true monster?” is a major theme which I just wish we sat a bit more with.
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As a whole, I enjoyed Cruel Illusions. It’s a solid stand alone and the magic was intriguing. Additionally, the themes that were there, asked the right questions and complicated the premise. There’s also a constant stream of action and I had no trouble with the pacing as it sweeps us from one problem to another. If you’ve been feeling the vampire itch and also love illusion magic, this is a must read. Find Cruel Illusions on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.