The Illusionists: A Novel

( 2 )


 The intoxicating new novel of magic and intrigue by “a master storyteller” (Cosmopolitan), for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants

Over the course of three decades of writing, bestselling novelist Rosie Thomas has earned an untold number of awards and the devotion of millions of loyal readers. Her new novel, The Illusionists, set in London in 1870, is a thrilling step forward—a captivating tale of passion and fantasy set in ...

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The Illusionists: A Novel

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 The intoxicating new novel of magic and intrigue by “a master storyteller” (Cosmopolitan), for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants

Over the course of three decades of writing, bestselling novelist Rosie Thomas has earned an untold number of awards and the devotion of millions of loyal readers. Her new novel, The Illusionists, set in London in 1870, is a thrilling step forward—a captivating tale of passion and fantasy set in the theater world.

At the start of The Illusionists, we meet Eliza, a young, beautiful woman of limited means. Eliza is modern before her time. Not for her the stifling if respectable conventionality of marriage, children, domestic drudgery. She longs for more. Through her work as an artist’s model, she meets the magnetic and irascible Devil—a born showman whose dream is to run his own theater company.

Devil’s right-hand man is the improbably-named Carlo Bonomi, an ill-tempered dwarf with an enormous talent for all things magic and illusion. Carlo and Devil clash at every opportunity and it constantly falls upon Eliza to broker an uneasy peace between them. And then there is Jasper Button. Mild-mannered, and a family man at heart, it is his gift as an artist that makes him the unlikely final member of the motley crew.

Thrown together by a twist of fate, their lives are inextricably linked: the fortune of one depends on the fortune of the other. And as Eliza gets sucked into the seductive and dangerous world her strange companions inhabit, she risks not only her heart, but also her life, which is soon thrown into peril.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in Victorian England, Thomas’s sprawling follow-up to The Kashmir Shawl combines several elements: a story of a theater company, a thriller, and, most successfully, a portrait of a woman trying to create an equal partnership with a man. Eliza Dunlop is working as an artists’ model when her suitor, Jasper, takes her to the Palmyra Theater, where she meets Devil Wix and the dwarf Carlo Boldoni who are working as illusionists. Wix is ambitious: he wants to own the theater and devises a plan that requires Carlo, Jasper, Eliza, and automaton-maker Heinrich Bayer to work together to swindle the crooked theater owner Jacko Grady. As the theater progresses, the partnership frays; a nearby murder, a kidnapping, and a ghost from Wix’s past add elements of horror and suspense. The heart of the book is Eliza’s long, slow attempt to not only marry Devil but to live in parity with him. Since she has no models for the relationship she wants, Thomas shows Eliza working to invent a new kind of life; a creation as novel for her time as the mechanical illusions at the Palmyra. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Illusionists in Victorian England take center stage in Thomas’ latest romance (Constance, 2013, etc.).Devil Wix is more ambitious than his fellow entertainers and wants to do more than eke out a hand-to-mouth existence. The captivating showman dreams of managing his own theatrical company and is willing to go to almost any lengths to achieve his goal. Following a chance encounter, Devil teams up with resourceful dwarf Carlo Bonomi, and the act thrives when the partners present a gory illusion each evening at the run-down Palmyra Theater in London's East End. Soon, the pair ally themselves with Heinrich, a strange Swiss inventor obsessed with automata; Jasper, a wax sculptor and childhood friend who’s privy to Devil’s darkest memory; and art student/life model Eliza, an aspiring actress whose kindness and steely determination bind the diverse and often contentious group together. Eliza falls in love with Devil, much to Jasper’s disappointment, but Devil’s not used to dealing with a woman who demands respect. Outwitting his opponent in a card game, Devil gains ownership of the Palmyra and directs his efforts toward making the venue the foremost entertainment hub in the East End. As he discovers the formidable costs of refurbishing the theater and attracting a fickle public, Devil borrows money for renovations and publicity, auditions new acts to keep the show fresh and pays scant attention to the dangerous mental state of one member of the troupe. Thomas enthusiastically explores a unique subject and skillfully creates the sights, atmosphere and sensations of British theater during this era; but with each melodramatic event, the plot becomes wispier and wispier until it finally vanishes into thin air. Predictably, relationships, attitudes and the courses of lives change before the story takes one final gasp, but by then, even die-hard fans may find themselves struggling to get through the drawn-out tale.An excellent premise, but the story lacks magic.
Library Journal
Artist's model Eliza Dunlop knows she was meant for something extraordinary, and a chance encounter with a pair of illusionists, the memorably named Devil Wix and his talented partner Carlo Bonomi, quickly draws her into the exciting world of Victorian theater. Courted by a variety of ardent suitors, Eliza finds herself increasingly intrigued by the charismatic Devil and discovers that stage life may be more exciting and dangerous than she ever imagined. VERDICT Thomas (The Kashmir Shawl) does her best with the romantic story, creating a brooding hero and plucky heroine who historical romance fans should enjoy cheering for. The rest of the plot unfortunately feels underdeveloped in comparison, and the novel could have ended much sooner than it does. Thomas's vivid characters and lively pace combined with well-chosen details of theatrical life at the close of the 19th century, however, make this a generally enjoyable lighter read for historical fiction fans with an interest in the late Victorian era or in the lives of "show folk."—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781468309904
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover
  • Publication date: 6/26/2014
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 171,636
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosie Thomas is the author of numerous celebrated novels, and has twice won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Born in a small village in the United Kingdom, Thomas discovered a love of traveling and mountaineering when her children were grown. In the years since, she has climbed in the Alps and the Himalayas, competed in the Peking to Paris car rally, and trekked in the footsteps of Shackleton on South Georgia Island.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 25, 2014

    For those with patience

    A very interesting story but s-l-o-w to develop and read. I fell asleep several times slogging thru it but kept coming back to find out how it ended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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