Check out our review of Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston, it’s the young adult fantasy to read if you are in the mood for a book with magic and vampires!
Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This post contains affiliate links. That means we receive a small commission at no cost to you from any purchases you make through these links.
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“Sometimes I wish I could post a flyer and have a kind stranger show up at my door and give me back everything I’ve ever lost. But most lost things never come back”.Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston
In Margie Fuston’s Cruel Illusions, Ava is a girl haunted by her past and searching for some magic in her life. When a performing troupe offers her both magic and a chance to avenge her mother’s murder, Ava decides that “running away with the circus” may not be such a cliche after all. But as any well versed fantasy reader would tell her, magic always comes with a price and so Ava finds herself in a magical competition where winning may cost her almost as much as losing.
In my opinion, Cruel Illusions is a refreshing take on the vampire genre. Instead of going for the tried and true stereotypes of the brooding vampire, the sexy vampire or the monster of Bram Stoker fame, Fuston’s vampires are strikingly human despite their blood lust. Some are good, some are evil, and some are somewhere in between. In fact, one could argue that at the beginning of the story Ava herself is a kind of vampire.
Her mother’s untimely death and being shunted from one foster home to another has left her in a state of limbo, unable to move forward with her life, a kind of living death. Only by confronting her past will she be able to resurrect herself. In addition to turning the vampire myth on its head, Cruel Illusions tackles the theme of overcoming grief.
The often melancholy tone of the story and the dark atmosphere that is described throughout fits perfectly with Ava’s state of mind. As I’ve already mentioned, she has been stuck in limbo since losing her mother and even verbalizes at one point that nobody has bothered to teach her to move forward. The events of Cruel Illusions ultimately allow her to realize what her mother would have wanted for her and what she in turn wants for herself. The trope of found family is pretty strong in this book with Ava almost unwittingly forming a family for herself as the story progresses.
At the same time Ava also realizes that when she left for the competition, she may have left behind more family than she initially realized.
Cruel Illusions is definitely a character driven story with the plot by no means slow, but at the same time not super action packed. Fans of the carnival like atmosphere of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series will likely enjoy Cruel Illusions, though this story has a more melancholy vibe. I would also consider adding it to your TBR if you enjoy urban fantasy or are looking for a new vampire book to read during spooky season. However, fans of romance heavy reads may want to pass on this one as romance is not central to the plot.
Trigger Warning: parental death
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