Monday, May 8, 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

From the Back Cover:

Harry Houdini’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.

Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.

In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.

Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.

My Thoughts:

I have long been wanting to read one of Kristy Cambron's novels, and I even have The Butterfly and the Violin on my tablet, I just haven't had time to catch up on the thousands of ebooks I've acquired. (Maybe because I keep acquiring more? But that's a topic for another post!) So I jumped at the chance to review The Illusionist's Apprentice. And I have very mixed feelings about it. I'm going to skip the plot recap since this is a mystery and I don't want to risk giving anything away. And the blurb does a good job of telling you what the story is about. So I'm just going to tell you what I think. And what I think is that this story had a lot of potential, but it just didn't take full advantage of all it had to offer.

For starters, the story felt fragmented to me. The narrative skips back and forth in time, with the majority spent in 1927 with the murder mystery, occasionally flipping back to various turning points in Wren's younger life. In some stories, this works very well, but in this case I felt like pieces were missing. For example, even though we are getting snippets from this time in her life, we never see how Wren ended up on the streets of London as a child, how she became an illusionist, or how she became so dedicated to her craft. I also thought it odd that a couple of the scenes from her younger life came from her mother's point of view, who has long been dead when the story opens.

I also thought the foundation was a little shaky. Eliot's reason for bringing Wren into the investigation as the only person who could help him solve the crime was never really explained. The book blurb makes it seem like Wren knows Horace Stapleton well, but we see no evidence of that. We also see no evidence of this hatred she's supposed to feel for him. I was expecting more interaction and tension along those lines. Having to exonerate someone you would love nothing more than to see rot in prison would be fine conflict for a story, but that does not materialize here.

And lastly, I found this story hard to get into. It's a dense read. Lots of words. Lots of introspection. It's very elegant, but I would have preferred as much attention paid to strengthening the plot. Fortunately, just when I was debating whether to DNF this (around page 120), bullets started flying and the plot started moving. It did keep me guessing till the end, though part of that is because nothing is revealed by way of clues until then. And when the big reveals were unveiled, I couldn't help but think that laying a little more groundwork into certain relationships, particularly by way of those scenes from her younger life that I felt should have been included, would have made it more impactful. As I said, I think this story had lots of potential. It just didn't live up to it to the fullest.

So what did I enjoy about The Illusionist's Apprentice? Well, as a hopeless romantic, I loved the tension between Wren and Elliot as these two very independent people fell in love. Watching Wren realize that perhaps she could have someone to share her life with, and watching her slowly let Elliot in, watching her let go of the rigidity and frostiness she'd held onto for so long, humanized her and made her more vulnerable. And watching Elliot see through her veneer, finding in her what so many had overlooked, was also very fulfilling. Their romance was all the more beautiful for its understatement:

Our mother used to say that a hero doesn't always have to slay a dragon to save the day. Sometimes he just walks through the fire alongside you, and that's enough.

And the writing is quite beautiful. The descriptions of 1920s Boston and the vaudeville world are vivid and evocative. The characters are intriguing. And there are many other readers who are loving this book. But for me, I just felt like I needed more of the blank spaces to be filled in and more of my questions answered to be completely satisfied.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

The Illusionist's Apprentice is on a blog tour!

Amazon | Apple/iBooks |

Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


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  1. Congrats on the tour, the book sounds great, and thanks for the chance to win.

  2. This novel sounds fascinating, intriguing and wonderful. Houdini interests me greatly. Elliot sounds special and I love the plot.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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