Born of Illusion, Book 1

Book review by
Julie A. Carlson, Common Sense Media
Born of Illusion, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Intriguing tale of magician's true powers in '20s New York.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will get a solid sense of 1920s New York and also learn about famed magician Harry Houdini.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about friendship, family, love, responsiblity, integrity, and self-respect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anna Van Housen is a wonderful role model for girls. She's traveled throughout the country with her mother, performing magic and thrilling audiences with her impressive skills. Despite not getting along with her mother, she still loves her and will protect her at all costs, even if it means risking her own life. Anna's also a good friend to Cole and his elderly cousin Mr. Darby. Cole is also a positive role model, as he always rushes to Anna's aid and protects her.


There's very little violence in Born of Illusion. However, two main characters are kidnapped and beaten up by their captors. A secondary character causes a violent outburst with screaming. Two characters carry a gun, and Anna carries a knife for protection.


Two brief kissing scenes, mild flirting, and hand-holding.


"Bitch," "bastard," "damn."


A few old-time New York restaurants, theaters, and stores are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Anna drinks. Adults drink and smoke. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Born of Illusion is the first novel in a magical series. It features a strong main character in 16-year-old Anna Van Housen, a magician who's been told her whole life she's the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini. Anna's mother, a "medium" who performs onstage alongside her daughter, is a fraud and a con woman who conducts seances in their home. Anna's often embarrassed by her mother and at odds with her; they bicker throughout the book. There's some romance (a love triangle, two kissing scenes) and violence (kidnapping, getting knocked unconscious) and some strong language ("bitch," "bastard," "damn"). Anna and adult characters drink. Adult characters smoke; Anna holds a cigarette but doesn't light it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Anna Van Housen, at 16, finally feels as if she's made a home for herself in New York City. Throughout her life she's traveled the country as a magician in her mother's stage act, while keeping a secret from her mother: She has visions and can see future events unfold, and she uses this ability in her magic tricks. Anna loves her mother but also distrusts her for pretending to speak to the dead -- raising people's hopes by taking their money. Anna would rather they find another source of income to survive. Since she was a child, Anna has believed she's the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini. But now that she's older, she starts questioning whether that notion was just one of her mother's string of lies. Anna finds comfort in new friends Cole, his elderly cousin Mr. Darby, wealthy socialite Cynthia, and playboy Owen. But soon Anna's visions start become all too real and hit closer to home. She must figure out a way to understand their meaning before they put her friends and family in jeopardy.

Is it any good?

BORN OF ILLUSION is a fun and entertaining book. Anna Van Housen is an interesting character, and the complex relationship with her mother is compelling. Anna's relationship with Cole is a light romance and a charming side story. The mystery is somewhat predictable, but it will keep readers turning the pages. The ending wraps up nicely and doesn't have a huge cliffhanger, but readers will be intrigued enough to want to read Book 2.

Author Teri Brown does a great job of making the characters seem as if they are living in 1920s New York. Appearances of real-life historical figures Harry Houdini and gangster Arnold Rothstein add flavor and context. Anna explains how she does her magic tricks, which is fun, too.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what you would do if you were told you were the daughter of a famous person? Would you try to contact him or her? How does Houdini's fame compare with today's media celebrities? 

  • Why do you think stories about love triangles are so popular? What do you think of Anna's relationships with Cole and Owen? 

  • Anna and her mother are jealous of each other and have a have a love-hate relationship.  What do you think of their relationship? Why do you think parent-child conflicts are so common in books and movies? What others stand out in your mind? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and magic

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate