Albion is dank and cold; a dreary, grey thing far removed from Jessamin Olea’s tropical island home of Melei. Even the people of Albion are different with their harsh, staid manners and so many of them obsessed with wealth or status.
With her dark hair and skin, Jessa never stood a chance of blending in here–even if she wanted to do such a thing.
No matter the hardships, Jessa knows moving to Albion will be worthwhile once her fancy Alben education is complete and she can use all of her new knowledge to help Melei and its people.
If Jessa hadn’t tried to walk down an alley on her way home from class, that might have been the end of the story. Instead, after a chance encounter with a strange and charming man named Finn Ackerly, Jessa’s life becomes something very different.
Soon Jessa is drawn into a magical power struggle between Finn and the sinister Lord Downpike. Weeks ago Jessa’s biggest concerns were keeping warm and trying to afford her textbooks while staying at the top of her class. Now, as enemies circle, Jessa will have to decide whether to stay on the path that will bring her home to Melei or bind herself further to Finn in Illusions of Fate (2014) by Kiersten White.
White offers a clever and original story here that is a fine historial-esque fantasy set in a well-realized world. With wit and humor aplenty, Illusions of Fate also features a nuanced commentary on what it means to feel and be seen as “other” along with the power that comes from claiming one’s heritage and identity.
Ideas surrounding feminism and imperialism are also handled as thoughtfully as race here. Jessa is a fierce heroine who knows exactly who she is and refuses to compromise that sense of self for anyone. Unapologetic, smart, and more than capable of saving herself, Jessa is sure to appeal to readers of all ages. Finn is her perfect foil as these unlikely allies bring out the best in each other with chemistry that is evident in every banter-filled exchange.
Illusions of Fate is a delightful blend of fantasy and romance with an action-packed plot with more than a few twists. The story builds slowly to reveal a story that is both engaging and thoughtful as Jessa tries to navigate the murky waters of Alben society. Although the ending is rushed in places, readers will finish this book with all of the pieces they need to imagine what other adventures might be in store for this truly wonderful heroine.
Possible Pairings: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carringer, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee, Sabriel by Garth Nix, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer