I know you're angry. It's true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I've fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you deadI'll do it. I'll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I've done and what I'm about to do next. I promise, it's one magic trick no one will ever see coming.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.
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The Trick & the Trickster
October 03, 1898
Twelve days. Twelve. Less than two weeks' time and Neville Wighton the Great will premiere his grand illusion for the city of London. It is his chance to cement his legacy. All he needs is for me to wait in the wings as I do my part.
October 05, 1898
West London, would that you were as inviting to me as you are to everyone else. Yet here I am. Uprooted once again to a new city, with new streets to explore, new theatres to perform in, and a sea of new faces.
It comes with the territory. From growing up in the brothel, to doing menial labor as a stagehand, to being named apprentice to Paolo il Magnifico, I take one grueling step after another to finally improve my station.
Paolo thinks I am merely his assistant. He says I should be grateful for the opportunity. One day, he says, he will show me his tricks. His secrets. And then I, too, can be a magician. If I just wait.
But I am tired of waiting. All my life I've been waiting. I might only be nineteen, but I am meant for great things. I know it.
Until then, I follow Paolo, acting as his shadow, learning and doing all that I can. The constant travel means I am always alone, which is probably for the best. It's simple: no friends means not having to say goodbye once it is time to make our way to the next theatre in the next city.
I suppose I consider Isabella a friend of sorts. As Paolo's assistant, she is the only other familiar face I see on a consistent basis. But knowing Paolo, that likely won't last much longer. He has achieved the amount of fame that he has by being strategic, not generous. His sharp eyes are always looking for a younger, prettier face — much like my own. Ah, but all jokes aside, it really is a shame. Isabella and I were just starting to get along.
It is for the best. A true magician can open up to no one. But I won't always be alone, will I? Not truly. Just like Paolo, once I am a magician, the crowd will sustain me. Their amazement, their adoration. For the time being, I find my companionship with different bedfellows.
I offer a kiss, my bed, my body. And then, for my own trick, I disappear.
* * *
As our carriage rolled along the cobblestone streets of London town, I scanned the crowds for prospects to contain my loneliness. Things did not look too promising, though. London's inhabitants seem about as chipper as the gray skies that hang over the city. And for some reason, they cover themselves from head to toe. No worry. I always do enjoy a challenge.
But as we continued onward, Paolo abruptly ordered our driver to stop. We came to West London for a reason, and it seemed he'd found it.
He exited the carriage, and Isabella gave me a knowing look — a wordless request to follow, so I did.
We had stopped in front of some square. A large column was plastered with local advertisements and notifications from businesses looking for laborers. And there was Paolo, staring at a poster. And from his glare, I could tell he wanted to rip the paper away and let it fall to the mud- caked street below.
Neville Wighton the Great. The whole reason we came here. We were originally supposed to perform in Munich, but while we were renting an apartment in Prague, I'd discovered a flyer for this "Neville Wighton the Great," making the same claims as that very poster. I had moved to throw the flyer away, but Paolo had ripped it from my hands and screamed, "Don't touch it!"
What is odd is I'd heard scarce little of Wighton before coming across the flyer. Any professionally working illusionist makes near-identical claims about their own performances.
A trick never before seen!
The greatest illusion on this earth!
Magic that will make you believe!
Paolo is never really one to notice or care, especially when it comes to performers who are so far beneath him. Yet this one commands every ounce of his being.
I was finally able to pry him away and usher him back into our carriage. Now we are settling comfortably into our rooms.
Why was my mentor in such a state? The advertisements make it seem that it will be a performance like most others. All I really know of the man is that he is older, so, as a veteran of the stage, he likely will not stoop to anything so simple as mere card tricks. Through the use of mirrors, cabinets with secret compartments, trapdoors leading underneath the stage, and a young woman with tantalizing good looks and a provocative, most likely sequined, costume (much like our Isabella), the man will entertain, confound, and possibly even amaze the simple folk who hand over their money in the hopes of seeing something that they cannot explain.
Still, this is not unlike many other illusionists performing all around the world. There is a man over in the States who refers to himself as The Alchemist who has his assistant collect simple copper pennies from volunteers in his audience and he then appears to turn the coins into gold before returning them to the delighted audience members.
There will always be competition, there will always be new illusions being tested and even perfected, there will always be some new (or in this case, old) face that captures an audience's eyes and hearts. I see no reason to spy on a performance that undoubtedly employs many of the same tricks or elements that Paolo currently utilizes himself.
I tried convincing my mentor of this to calm him.
"I have to see his trick," was all he said back to me.
He did not say he needed to see the performance as a whole but his trick. One singular trick. It is only now that I am remembering how the notice had advertised that Mr. Wighton will be performing a feat unlike any seen before.
I attempted to feed his ego various lines about how any tricks that the Englishman would perform could never hold a candle to Paolo's powers of prestidigitation. But once again, my mentor only had one response.
"I have to see his trick. For months now that stale old fopdoddle has been hinting at how this will be the performance to change his career and thus his fortune. A little late in life for that ..."
My eyebrow shot up as I looked to my mumbling mentor. He was staring at the ground, talking more to himself than me, and only when our eyes connected did he seem to remember that I was even in the room.
He did not speak on the subject for the rest of the night, and I was left to wonder. Months? I had not realized Neville Wighton was someone Paolo had even cared to follow, let alone that he has apparently been corresponding with the man.
Paolo has been anything but an open book, a fact I accepted long ago. But it seems there are far more unread chapters in his story than I had originally suspected, and more characters who are integral to the plot.
October 09, 1898
Something happened today. Something wonderful, and terrible, and exciting, and confusing ... o what does it matter? I am likely making more of it than actually exists.
And yet for something that will assuredly come to nothing ... my heart — it was beating as fast as it does the only other time it beats that fast is when my gift is making itself known, coursing through my veins like electrical currents.
This morning, Neville sent me off on errands in preparation for the opening performance, which is now only six days away. Specifically, I was to run to the tailor's shop to pick up his vest, tailcoat, and cloak that were made special for the performance.
Surely that was something I could not mess up ... but of course, I found a way.
As promised, the pieces were magnificent. The tailcoat was sleek and cut in a modern style. The vest was black, lined with a midnight-blue satin, as was the cloak, which was also embroidered with a gold thread that twinkled as it caught the light, as though it were fashioned after the night sky.
Honestly, I was astonished. The idea that a man with an appearance as unruly and unkempt as Neville Wighton would have a mind for fashion was lost on me. What with his brown hair sprouting from his head in every which direction and graying in such a nonuniform manner, it looked as though his head were simply doused in ash. Not to mention his sharp, birdlike features, which are only hardened further by the scowl permanently fixed to his face.
There is certainly something to be said about a man who takes such special care when it comes to showmanship, and I suppose it was shallow of me to just assume that such details of a performance were of no significance to him.
With his costume in hand, I hurried out of the shop. I took a shortcut back to Neville's studio, and just as I was cutting through Manchester Square, I tripped over my own feet. Everything seemed to happen slower then, moment by moment. The gorgeous night-sky cloak was the first to float to the ground, and I followed, landing atop it.
I groaned into the lapel of the tailcoat, not ready to pull myself up and inspect the damage, when the sound of laughter pierced through the air. When I did finally look up, a pair of girls, probably not much older than myself, hung on either arm of a young man whom I'd never seen around this part of town before.
He was beautiful. Not just handsome — I've seen plenty of handsome men. But this young man, he was ... striking. The way his dark curls hung loosely over even darker eyes had me at a loss for words. My stomach roiled in the strangest way. Not an unpleasant feeling — not at all. Just strange ... confusing ... unexpected. And yet, it was also welcome — as if something wonderful could happen at any moment just as long as he stayed near.
The girls he was with were giggling, but he seemed more contemplative than amused. He stepped forward and crouched down in front of me, then he picked up a part of the cloak and pinched it between his forefinger and thumb as he inspected it.
A cigarette hung from the side of his lips, and with him standing so close, a cloud of smoke created a veil between us. I did not know how to react, so I just lay there, frozen, letting the scent of the tobacco mixed with a hint of lavender oil filter through my senses.
He finally took his eyes off Neville's ruined ensemble, stood, and reached out an arm to help me up. At that, my heart was near stopping altogether. I pulled myself up quickly, hoping that if my movements were swift, the beautiful stranger wouldn't notice just how much I was trembling.
"What is your name?" he asked once I was up on my feet.
O his voice! A thick accent coated his words, and each syllable danced around my ears, sweet and melodic, as though he were singing rather than merely speaking. There I go again, as if I were sitting down to write another one of my poems rather than scribbling about the goings-on of my day in a journal.
"Thomas," I forced out in what was only incrementally louder than a whisper.
"Thomas," he repeated. It sounded so ... right, when he said it.
He looked back down at Neville's soiled suit and cloak, and he smirked, the cigarette never faltering for a second. "That is quite the outfit." His eyes met mine once again. "I'm sure it looks bello ... No, no. Fetching? This is the word you Englishmen use, yes? I'm sure it looks fetching on you — or it would have, anyway."
A surge of warmth shot through my face. Personally, I preferred the term "bello." Embarrassed, I was quick to admit that the clothing did not belong to me but to my master — which I then quickly switched to "mentor." That word still didn't feel right when describing Neville, because that would imply he's actually taught me something. But still, master makes it seem too much like I am his slave, rather than the young man who is about to either make or break his entire career.
He asked me who my mentor was and what sort of apprentice I am. I explained that I was working for "Neville Wighton the Great." Though it sounded foolish coming out of my mouth, those dark eyes of his widened.
"Oh, I do love magic," he said. "Always so confounding. Do a trick for us, won't you?" His female companions were quick to agree, urging me to do an impromptu performance, right in the square.
I mumbled something about how I couldn't possibly and that I did not have the proper materials. I am not even entirely sure what I said and how much of it consisted of actual words, but it worked, for they relented. The boy shot me one last thoughtful smile, shrugged, then walked off, the girls trotting eagerly behind.
It is only now as I sit here that I am lamenting and cursing myself for being such a fool. He asked for my name and yet I never bothered to ask for his. Now he remains a nameless stranger, one I will likely never see again.
All I wish to do is to continue writing about him for the rest of the day, but I must be off. I promised Amelia I would accompany her to lunch — more specifically, Mother made me promise after our last two meetings were arranged by her. Both Mother and Father think it improper, since it gives the appearance that she is the one courting me and not the other way around.
I shall do my best to be decent company, but my mind is still in Manchester Square.
* * *
Lunch with Amelia was fine. That is how all activities are with her. Just ... fine.
Amelia Ashdown is a lovely girl, to be certain. I have never once denied that. But after my encounter with the handsome stranger, I know what it is to truly admire someone's features rather than simply appreciate them, as I do with Amelia. Amelia's beauty, while apparent, has never made me desire to be close to her. Today, with that boy, I felt the urge to be close enough that if I were to reach out, my fingers could trace his cheekbone down to his sharp jaw. As he walked away, an odd, immediate sense of loneliness rushed through me.
Oh what does it matter, anyway? It is not as if I could do anything about these strange feelings. Even if I had thought to ask him for his name, even if I knew exactly where in the city to find him at this very moment, saints. Even if I were able to muster up the courage — everyone says it is a sin. Each one of my thoughts about him more sinful than the next. I mean ... just look at what happened to Wilde. I am already an "other" — something to be feared. The last thing I need is another secret. Another reason for the people of London to want to persecute me.
But is it so naive of me to want the type of passion I so often read about? Is it foolish to want a love that is so wholly consuming it causes me to ache? Fate is cruel that way, showing you exactly what you want even when it cannot be yours.
Passion or no, I shall continue to court Amelia, taking her out for tea and to lunches, for that is what is expected of me and what is proper.
October 09, 1898
Something marvelous happened today.
I went against my own rule and put a name to one of the faces I met today. Thomas. It was in some square that I spotted him, just across town, near a café where I had successfully charmed two girls — sisters, if you can believe it. These Londoners are not as repressed as I figured. We were making our way to somewhere a little more private when a blur of ash-blond curls, pale skin, and elegant eyes fell toward the earth in an excitable fashion.
Even in his state, he was pleasant looking: slender, big gray eyes framed by those bouncing curls. He was clearly younger, though, even if only by a couple of years, and therefore not quite my type. I would have simply kept moving were it not for the articles of clothing he had dropped around him.
At first glance, they would have seemed like a simple black vest, tailcoat, and cloak, but the cloak and vest were each lined with a dark- blue fabric that had been embroidered with gold thread in such a way that the pattern looked like the night sky. No ordinary boy would be in possession of garments such as these.
And so I reached out a helping hand.
As it happens, the boy is also an apprentice a magician's apprentice. And he works for none other than Neville Wighton the Great.
It was a grand coincidence, surely. But could it be anything more than that? The more I have been thinking on it, the more I am certain: this is no mere coincidence; this is an opportunity.
You see, I have been waiting an eternity for Paolo to reveal his secrets to me. But I might now be able to claim something of my own, something Paolo wants so much that he will finally stop teasing me.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Illusions"
Copyright © 2018 Madeline J. Reynolds.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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