Review: Illusionarium

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if the world holds more dangers—and more wonders—than we have ever known? And what if there is more than one world? From Heather Dixon, author of the acclaimed Entwined, comes a brilliantly conceived adventure that sweeps us from the inner workings of our souls to the far reaches of our imaginations.

Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path.

Illusionarium was quite a good blend of steampunk, alternate universes and post-apocalyptic scenarios. Through the eyes of Jonathan, living in a steampunk version of a utopic London, we are thrown into an adventure that takes us across another world, a world ruined by greed and power. Jonathan, a scientist working under the apprenticeship of his father, who I would roughly say, is kind of a virologist, is put in a dilemma when a new kind of disesase sweeps through his city. This plague is very virulent and somehow affects only the females. By the order of the king, he and his father are made to work with the top scientist of their realm, but something is amiss with her. She isn’t who she seems to be, but Jonathan is desperate for a cure since his mother and sister also get affected. Time is short and he agrees to work with her, but she takes him across another land where a drug called fantillum is all the rage – it can cause illusions and some people can harness these illusions to create as they will. The illusions are constructed atom by atom, so Jonathan being a scientist, is quick to pick it up. What he doesn’t know is that the drug has side effects, and this world was brought down by it. Supposedly, the schisms caused by the actions of people divide a world into alternate universes, and this world, though a mirror of his own, is now a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The lushness of imagination that went into the creation of the worlds in this book is quite impressive. An amalgamation of fantasy and science fiction, it immerses you in the adventure of parallel worlds. Plotwise, it was fast-paced and action-filled, but the characterization did suffer. It was all find-your-true-north and all that, very black and white, not the layers of characters that I usually enjoy. The complexity was missing and which is why I wasn’t fully happy with the book. 4 stars for this one.

Received a galley from Greenwillow books via Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinions or review.

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