I’m a fan of steampunk and of young adult literature, so it isn’t much of a surprise that I loved Illusionarium by Heather Dixon. I did not read Dixon’s first novel, Entwined, but I can say that Illusionarium is an enjoyable action-packed adventure. Dixon does a fantastic job of illustrating a new world full of well-rounded and likable characters.
The story begins in the aerial city of Fata Morgana where Jonathan leads a normal life, ready to escape the small city’s boundaries. All of that changes when the king appears with a request of Jonathan and his father – they must work together to cure the queen of a deadly plague afflicting women called Venen. Jonathan must convince his father to use an experimental drug called fantillium that induces accelerated shared dreams. Since the team only has five days to cure the queen before the disease claims her life, fantillium’s unique effects may hold the key to the antidote.
The writing style really stood out to me. Dixon ties the use of amusing footnotes combined with a distinct storytelling method that left me wanting to read more. But I’m not going to lie – it did take me a few chapters to really get into the writing style. I’m not sure what’s so different about how this book was written, but it definitely worked for me.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the direction Dixon took with the use of a plague. So many novels talk about the aftermath of a plague or the beginning of a plague. It was a good change of pace to read a book concerned with finding the cure rather than the effects. My only criticism would be the slight lag in the middle of the novel. However, I think readers will want to read on to know how everything ties together in the end.
Overall, I was very pleased with Illusionarium. I think this will be a memorable standalone addition to the young adult fiction genre. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers’ attention, and it was very nice to read a YA lit novel that wasn’t focused on romance.
Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Greenwillow Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.