Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”
Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn't—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.
What I Liked:
Two words: historical fantasy. My two favorite genres put together, making my favorite subgenre! Actually, my favorite subgenre is medieval fantasy, but that's a subgenre of historical fantasy. Ha! Anyway. I had seriously high hopes for this book, and they totally panned out for me! I was disappointed by this book, which is always a plus. And I really, really enjoyed it, which was an even bigger plus!
Jessamin goes to school on Albion, which is a totally different place from her island home of Melei. For one, she has black skin, whereas the people of Albion are pale white. She is shunned, ignored, picked on, tormented, etc. at school. Her estranged father, a professor at the illustrious school, refuses to acknowledge her presence. Life isn't too hot in Albion, but Jessamin is determined to be perfect and a flawless student, so she can be a teacher on Melei.
Everything changes when Jessamin learns about the world of the nobility - in which the nobility all have magical abilities (which is what makes them the nobility). The Minister of Defense, Downpike, has a vendetta against Lord Finley Ackley (Finn), and Finn has a thing for Jessamin. She is caught in the middle, and she will find out just how much her country, her love, and her being means to her.
I absolutely LOVE the world-building of this book. Not just the setting, but the atmosphere of this novel. The setting is so well-written - I can practically see the streets, parks, houses, etc. But it's the atmosphere that took me by surprise. Jessamin feels totally out of sorts in Albion, since she is a "dirty islander rat" to the people of Albion. The other people from Melei treat her like a sister or daughter. Her cousin takes her in since the dorms at the school are too expensive, and he gives her a job at the hotel at which he works. The prejudice and stereotypes are cruel and harsh, but they go both ways. White does an excellent job of portraying the animosity between the two places.
I really like Jessamin. She is a commoner (not royalty), an outsider (from Melei), and she has no idea about the magical world that lies in Albion. Jessamin is curious and feisty, almost waspish, but I love it. She presses and presses until she finds out what she wants, or gets what she wants, but it's not in a selfish way. She has a prickly but likable personality. I certainly enjoyed her interactions with other characters in this book!
Also, how cool is it that Jessamin is a person of color?! She's described as having black skin, I believe. This is actually brought up a few times, as the prejudices also have to do with skin (not just power or location or money). I'm happy to see this diversity, especially in a historical fiction novel! Sort of historical fiction, anyway. It's more fantasy than historical fiction.
I LOVE Finn. Jessamin has nothing on Finn. Finn is devilish and charming, like, ACTUALLY charming. He is a rich, powerful lord - literally powerful, both in influence and in power. His parents were extremely powerful as well, but were murdered, leaving him with a ton of money and titles and property and power. Finn is sweet and roguish and not so forthcoming, yet he bares his soul over and over. Jessamin doesn't accept him at first, for most of the book, and hurts him over and over. I don't blame her as much as I might have, since it makes sense (Finn is a stranger to her, bringing her into a dangerous world), and it fits her personality. However. I would have given him a break ;)
That being said, I liked the romance a lot! I wanted to see more between Finn and Jessamin though. It's totally Jessamin's fault - she wouldn't take a chance on Finn. I don't blame her... but I do... but I don't. I would have trusted him, if only because he is a powerful lord, magically powerful... and handsome. I said "handsome" third, okay?
The plot is very interesting! I wanted to know how Finn would defeat Downpike. I wanted to know if the Hallin magic existed, and where to find it. I wanted to know MORE. I had a bad feeling about certain characters, and that foreshadowing was well-placed. I definitely didn't see the ending coming though - this is fabulously written, by White. What a way to weave a surprising climax and resolution!
I'm very pleased with this book! I'm glad it's a standalone novel, because everything wraps up well. The ending almost killed me (you are warned), but it worked out well in the end. I had questions at the end, but I kind of threw them out of the window because ehhh, things ended well and I'm not going to question certain things too much.
What I Did Not Like:
As I mentioned before - I wanted more from the romance. It's there, and I liked it, but more romance really would have made sense, with the tone of the story. I can't explain it, but it feels like there should have been a powerful, sweeping romance to match up with a powerful, sweeping tale of magic and lords and power. Magic struggle, power struggle, romance struggle, you know? Also, knowing the nature of the charming and lovely Finn... yeah, we needed more. The romance is always THERE... but not quite, physically.
Would I Recommend It:
Um, YEAH! Historical fiction + fantasy elements = total win! I wanted a little more from the romance, but I'm slowly figuring out that it's just not White's style, it seems. I suppose that's okay.
4 stars. Definitely My favorite Kiersten White book yet! I haven't read all of her so-far-published books (nor do I plan to do so), but I will continue to check out her upcoming releases. The Conquerors Saga is definitely high on my list of book priorities!
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