The Illusions – Liz Hyder

Published By: Manilla Press
Pages: 400
Released On: 22/06/2023

Bristol, 1896. Used to scraping a living as the young assistant to an ageing con artist, Cecily Marsden’s life is turned upside down when her master suddenly dies. Believing herself to blame, could young Cec somehow have powers she little understands?

Meanwhile Eadie Carleton, a pioneering early film-maker, struggles for her talent to be taken seriously in a male-dominated world, and a brilliant young magician, George Perris, begins to see the potential in moving pictures. George believes that if he can harness this new technology, it will revolutionise the world of magic forever – but in order to achieve his dreams, he must first win over Miss Carleton . . .

As a group of illusionists prepare for a grand spectacle, Cec, Eadie and George’s worlds collide. But while Cec falls in love with the bustling realm of theatre and magic, she faces the fight of her life to save the performance from sabotage and harness the element of real magic held deep within her.

THE ILLUSIONS is the captivating new novel from the much-lauded author of THE GIFTS. Inspired by real-life illusionists and early film pioneers, this astonishing story of women and talent, magic and power, sweeps you into a world where anything is possible and nothing is quite as it seems . . .


Thanks to NetGalley and Manilla Press for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I did make the mistake of starting this during a very busy weekend and so it took me longer to get into than it normally would have.

I struggled with the start of this a bit as there were quite a few characters and I was getting a bit lost as to who was who and how they were connected, but that didn’t last too long. It soon becomes clear and you end up having about half a dozen people to keep tabs on, which is a nice amount.

I really liked the character of George. I can’t fully explain why but he just shone off the page like a friend you’d like to have. Cec was a difficult character to fully liker or dislike, but I am erring towards the former. She struggles and unfortunately you have to cast your morals aside to survive, which didn’t often put her in the greatest light, but I think she was a fabulous character. Eadie was lovely. A businesswoman trying to stand out in an industry of men. Skarratt was an unpleasant man. Full of generosity but his true colours soon start to shine. The Professor was interesting. Not a big role but standout all the same. And Valentin. I spent most of the book undecided about him, whether I could trust him. I wanted to, but he is a complex character, and yet I think his good nature won out for me in the end. I won’t go into too much detail about any others for fear of spoiling it too much. But whilst it took a while to get to grips with the different characters and how they linked, I think Liz has actually achieved a very clever piece of writing here.

In my opinion, not a huge amount of ‘stuff’ actually happens. It’s a lot of talk and planning and plotting and performing, which I enjoyed immensely. I like a book full of character exploration and development which this had in abundance. It’s not full-on thrilling action, it’s quieter than that, it’s about deception, truths and lies. And yet it’s no less intense and fun to read.

Whilst we know (or do we?) that magicians and conjurors are full of tricks and deception, Liz has managed to evoke a real sense of wonder and magic throughout the story.

I loved the feel of community and family throughout and how family is not necessarily who you are related to, but what you make of it, and that’s important. It’s actually quite emotive. I didn’t think it would be. But it’s deeper than I first imagined it would be and you may find yourself shedding a tear once or twice.

I love Liz’s little love letter to the theatre in her historical notes at the end. I am also a great lover of the theatre and have been attending ever since I can remember. And they are truly magical places to behold and she’s really captured that awe and wonder.

I love the focus on women in this book. The 1800s weren’t a great place for women at any time, but for women trying to run a business, own a house, practice ‘magic’…Liz has given them a voice, and their rightful place front and centre.

I am always impressed when an author can develop a story like this. With so many people, so many storylines, pasts and secrets and lies, relationships and friendships, histories and futures. To be able to keep up and to worm them all together so seamlessly is beautiful.

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