Having left her soulmate White behind her in Angle Tar, Rue is trying to make sense of her new and unfamiliar life in World. Its technologically advanced culture is as baffling as is it thrilling to her, and Rue quickly realises World’s fascination with technology can have intoxicating and deadly consequences.
She is also desperately lonely. And so is White. Somehow, their longing for each other is crossing into their dreams – dreams that begin to take increasingly strange turns as they appear to give Rue echoes of the future. Then the dreams reveal the advent of something truly monstrous, and with it the realisation that Rue and White will be instrumental in bringing about the most incredible and devastating change in both World and Angle Tar.
But in a world where Life is a virtual reality, where friends can become enemies overnight and where dreams, the future and the past are somehow merging together, their greatest challenge of all may be just to survive.
The Illusionists is Laure Eve’s second novel in the Fearsome Dreamer sequence. While I really enjoyed Fearsome Dreamer, I did have some niggles with it, mostly to do with pacing and structure. In The Illusionists these problems have all been ironed out and the book is a far smoother read and the story is still as interesting and complex as Eve’s debut. As an added bonus, the protagonists are easier to relate to as well, having lost some of their rougher edges.
The focus of the The Illusionists’ narrative was far more on Rue, rather than White who I felt loomed larger in the previous book. While there are still chapters from White’s, Wren’s and Frith’s viewpoints, Rue is very much the heart of this story. Having fled to World at the end of Fearsome Dreamer, she’s now in a new place and feeling rather isolated, not speaking the language and Wren the only one able to translate for her. There is a sense of culture shock to her reactions on reaching World, which are a louder echo of her reactions in the previous book upon arriving in Parisette. It also means that Rue has to do some accelerated growing-up and loses some of her previous self-importance. There is a lot of honesty in Rue’s inner dialogues and I really liked that Rue isn’t afraid to admit – at least to herself – that running away was a mistake.
White’s story is far more about him discovering what is important to him beyond discovering his abilities. His examination of his feelings for Rue, Frith, and himself at times ends in painful self-recrimination, but is interesting and the development of the love story between White and Rue is lovely. Much of this is conducted indirectly and without actual contact between the two, at least that is what they themselves think. The connection of their dream meetings to Rue’s abilities is the one place where Eve deploys the not talking to each other tactic I disliked in Fearsome Dreamer as well. It turns out both White and Rue are unaware that Rue has the ability to make people share her dreams, yet her classmates are well aware and never bother to comment on it, not even to tease.
Wren becomes somewhat of a tragic villain, seeing how he develops through the narrative. He becomes harder to sympathise with as the story goes along and we see more of his treatment of Rue, but in his own chapters it becomes clear that he is a troubled young man, one trying to prove his worth to himself and others and he just can’t seem to make the right decisions. Frith’s story arc was quite the opposite really. After a confrontation with White, Frith has to recover himself and we travel with him back to Rue’s home town and we finally discover more about his history and his past with Fernie in particular. His story is another that plays with the importance of memory and how it shapes who we become. I enjoyed the questions it evoked and the answers Eve provides or leaves open to the reader’s interpretation.
She takes a similar approach to the explanation of Rue’s abilities and the true nature of the Castle, the mysterious other place, where the monsters are locked away, but threatening to break free and destroy humanity as we know it. Eve reveals much, yet leaves some of it open to interpretation. She also included some huge twists to Rue’s story, which very much alter the way one reads the previous book. The final twists of the story were amazing, I really hadn’t seen those coming, yet they felt fitting. They force Rue to step up and become a leader and in a way validate her previous sense of self-importance and destiny, just at a point where she doesn’t really care about all of that anymore.
The epilogue is bitter sweet, especially since while the story is very much finished, it doesn’t bode well for our gang’s ultimate future. It wraps up the narrative elegantly, while leaving Eve an opportunity to tell more of Rue’s story in the future should she choose to revisit Angle Tar. The books are very much a duology though and work better when read together, so I’d advise getting both of them and reading them in one go. With The Illusionists Laure Eve wraps up her debut series in style and I truly can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.