A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Illusions of Fate is a fantasy romance from Kiersten White, the author of The Chaos of Stars and the bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy. The violence is pretty mild for fantasy, with a few deaths -- one very sudden -- and the breaking of fingers with a hammer, with the fingers being magically mended shortly thereafter. The romance stays focused on fate and true love with only a couple of kisses. The underage couple drinks champagne and brandy. Girl readers will especially enjoy the headstrong heroine of color who faces prejudice and refuses to hide from danger; she's ready to conquer it with her intellect.
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What's the story?
Jessamin left the island of Melei for an education in Albion. She was aware that there would be prejudice against her for being a dark-skinned, intelligent woman from one of the Albion colonies but still didn't realize life would be so hard. She can't afford the dorms, works with her cousin at a hotel, and barely gets enough to eat. Heading home late one evening, she's cornered by a dockworker in an alley until a mysterious nobleman steps in. Finn takes Jessamin to dinner and is immediately entranced by her but knows he needs to keep his distance. Like all nobles around the world, Finn can wield magic, and he's better than most in Albion. He possesses secret knowledge others desire, and they're looking for a way to make him give up those secrets. But as Finn tries to walk away from Jessamin for the last time, his shadow follows her; a kind of romantic magic he can't control. Now the enemy knows his biggest weakness, and Jessamin's in danger.
Is it any good?
The saddest thing about ILLUSIONS OF FATE is that unless the fates magically turn this into a series, it's the last we'll see of Jessamin, a rather fantastic heroine. She's brilliant and fiercely independent and quite funny, especially when she writes home to her overbearing mother. Finn also is a catch of a mysterious romantic interest. Seeing the sparks that fly between the two -- the dialogue is especially strong -- makes this a real page-turner.
The magical world that author Kiersten White creates also intrigues -- with some aspects (the dual shadows, birds that turn into books) intriguing more than others. Some aspects are a little unbelievable, such as Jessamin's lightning-fast grasp of the magical world and how she can manipulate it. Still, the ending will definitely surprise and satisfy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the prejudice Jessamin faces, as a person of color, as a foreigner, as a woman, and even as someone not of the class that can do magic. When she feels out of place, how does she handle it?
How does the magic in Illusions of Fate compare with other magical lore? What is the role of the birds? Where does Finn store his magic spells, and why?
Neither Melei nor Albion is a real place, but how are some of the struggles of the Melenese similar to those faced by British colonies in the Victorian era?
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