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Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Gift of Illusion by Richard Brown

Hi there!

Sorry for the break in posts yesterday but WHEW...this new schedule has got me running like a cuckoo bird.  Seriously...whirlwind type stuff.  Anywho, enough of my whining, let's get down to the books, shall we?  *watches for enthusiastic nods*  Good deal.

Today's featured title is a book that waited to see the light of day for over eight years.  That's right, EIGHT years.  According to the author it "haunted" him or "taunted" (there's a pun there you'll understand when you read the story...^_^) him throughout it's stay on his dusty bookshelf and when he'd had enough of its torturous ways, he helped it reach its final goal and TADA...another book was born.  It's a haunting story with a few quirks but...well, let me introduce it first. Today's book of choice is....

The Gift of Illusion

From the author...

Something wicked has returned to Elmwood, and it longs to continue the study it began over a century ago. It's looking for volunteers, but few seem worthy of the gift.  Isaac Winters might be the one. He's a detective with a damaged past, and something to prove. Here's his chance.

Ominous, right?  It should be...though in reality its not always.  Allow me to explain.  My first taste of this book drew me right in.  The opening scenes of a crime in progress committed against our lead character and his family is attention grabbing, no's the next chapter that created a bit of confusion for this reader.  There's this time jump...not futuristic as in Scifi-ish, but just "X" number of years...that left me feeling disconnected from the story.  I wasn't certain who was who anymore and why we were learning about was like the reception I get on my cell in the one building at work, interrupted to the point of extinction. 

Now don't fret dear readers, that wasn't the end of my journey...have I ever given up before on a book I've started? I plowed ahead, hoping for the best with a small sliver of fear of the worst stuck in my back pocket.  What did I get?  In the end, a story that fell somewhere in between the two extremes and you know what, that's A-okay.  Issac Winters (our main character) proved to be a good father, an upstanding detective who would get the job done no matter what, and a good friend to those who needed one.  All this was accomplished despite his past...a past that refuses to let him be; such is the case when dealing with unwanted emotions or situations and the death of a loved one is traumatic enough let alone the aftermath.  The path is full of pitfalls for this character and shadowy at best as far as the final outcome of his actions, but you can count on it to be interesting.  I like the fact that the author built him as a thinker as well as a doer; it played well in many a scene.

The (for most of the book) unnamed terror is horrifying to say the least.  If you harbor a fear of fire, you may want to read this one in good company because the victims tend to meet their end in the belly of that particular beast.  The trail of carnage continues to grow as the story progresses until the big reveal in the final fourth of the book....and what a reveal it is.  I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'll avoid any details but be prepared for a ghastly finish.  That's not the only part to watch for though.  As we learn about the town's history, we are exposed (hmm...interesting choice of words there that popped into my head considering the events I'm dancing around right now) to the macabre performances of a master illusionist...or psycho, take your pick.  No, seriously...the "shows" that he'd put on usually involved mass bouts of nudity, torture and finally death....think Interview with a Vampire (the movie) where they basically end up with a group feeding on stage while the audience doesn't quite know what to think.  O-O  Suffice it to say this person wasn't exactly making friends in all the right places but he was making money at an astonishing rate (go figure, right?)allowing him to continue improving his show....the details of which are somewhat morbid but very intriguing, certainly a well thought out back story (which reminds me, I don't want to be in this author's head...~whistles~).

The supporting characters all have their roles to play even if only for a short time.  I do have to wonder though about one particular guy that is given a rather pivotal role towards books end, but we barely get to know him throughout the text.  He seems very minor, almost an accessory but then POOF...big finish.  Gotta say it left me wishing for more on that person's history even though the story didn't center on them...but it did well in showing how you never really know who will impact (there I go with the word choice again) your life.

Regarding the storyline, I have to say it...I saw many threads of a particular movie starring Denzel Washington throughout the story, but the twist at the end moves it away from that scenario just enough to allow it to be a close comparison but NOT a replica.  Speaking of that twist, the mastermind behind the evil happenings was certainly the product of a vivid imagination.  He was quite life like and while his reasoning was out there (to say the least) you could still see where he was coming from (just can't say I'd agree with him....nope, definitely not) and why everything fascinated him so.  The human spirit is a funny thing; ever so fragile on the outside, but on the inside, a force to contend with.  The limits of it are not specific to the human race, but rather the person and just what pushes our buttons too far varies much like our personalities.  An interesting concept to explore....just not quite THIS way... O_O

A few random points to make, and I promise I'll draw this performance to a close.  There are a few instances of foul language, but nothing too extreme or long playing.  There is one particular choice in descriptive terms that could offend some readers around page just seemed like an ill fit when considering the rest of the text but if you gloss over it, the rest of your journey should leave you unscathed.  One thing that did irk me just a bit...not enough to stop reading mind you but enough to mention....the way things were described in general, or rather not.  Numerous times in the story there are elements of the current surroundings being described...the detail to which it reaches comes across almost like a schematic.  For example, there's a scene that takes place in a theater and the entire room is described from the number of steps before the stage to how many boards the pews were made of.  To me, it seemed unnecessary to lay things out quite so exact.  It wasn't like it affected the events about to take place, or played a role in the plot later simply was a case of good intentions (sharing everything with the reader) getting the better of the situation and running away with the show.

On a lighter note, there were several areas where the authors turn of phrase worked remarkably well and it left me dog earring (okay, okay...I use sticky notes...can't bear to bend the page if not necessary) a page here and a page there.  One particularly stunning point I'd like to quote for you occurred on page 184...

Without a doubt, this desolate section of Maria was not an area explored often, or at all anymore.  Most people knew better and would avoid the unlit, beaten road at all costs, even if they were curious where it led.  Their mind recognized the imaginary line and warned them not to cross it; for it wasn't the length, light, or shape of the road that mattered, only where it led you in the end.  Maria had its dark spot, its shadow under the trees, and it hid it well. I hear any takers on moving to this marvelous street?  *insert cricket sound*  No one?  Yeah...I don't blame you.  It's an ominous description for an equally ominous location and represented rather well by the author's words.  This is an instance where the author let his limited words speak for him thus allowing the readers imagination to take flight and create those shadowy scenes in their mind's eye...definitely a plus.

In the end fair readers, though I wasn't blown away, I was entertained even if it was tinged with morbidness and sometimes that's all you're looking for.  There's nothing wrong with a scary story now and then, right?  Just make sure it's not a dark and stormy night at home alone when you go for THIS one.  Reading recommendation for me would go to older teens and adult readers due to some of the content mentioned (don't want to scare the impressionable little kiddos).  Review copy was provided by the author, Richard Brown.  (THANKS!)  For more information on this particular book as well as his other works (and WIP), be sure to stop by his website

Until next time...happy reading!


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