The Illusionist's Apprentice
Thomas Nelson Publishers
Harry Houdni’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them . . . or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.
Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric—even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.
In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.
Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her.
Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.
I love books with premises that are unusual and original. I don't necessarily have a problem finding novels with such tantalizing descriptions- but what I do have a problem with is finding books that fulfill the promise of a intriguing synopsis. With The Illusionist's Apprentice it wasn't so much the novel description that struck my imagination (though that was good too) but the title. (Am I the only one inexplicably drawn to books with "apprentice" in the title? Why do I like that word so much???)
At any rate, I had only read one other book by this author and enjoyed it, so I thought it was pretty safe to say that I'd like this one. And I did. It had some very distinct things going for it: the setting, likable characters, and may I say, a beautiful cover. There were even some lovely, tender moments that struck beautifully true. Goodness, how I wanted to love it. But I just...didn't. And I couldn't figure out why. One possible reason is that I felt like the plot wasn't as tightly wound into a mystery as was implied by the book blurb- it was more of a exploration of Wren's past and present. I don't mind that; I just felt like the plot came and went in phases. I also felt that the characters lacked a distinctive voice. There were some nice "inspirational" elements that I thought worked well- except that they slid into the book in a bedside-devotional type of way that felt generic rather than specific to the characters saying them. I'm no hater of faith elements presently plainly in novels at all; I just thought that the sentiments expressed sounded more like a well-written essay statement than words those characters might use to express themselves. This seems like a nit-picky sort of complaint, and it might be. I just didn't fall in love with this book and am still trying to figure out why, and that's all the reasoning I can come up with for the moment.
BUT I would still recommend trying this book if it sounds interesting to you. I know a lot of people who've loved it, and after all...I read this while I've been a bit under the weather, and sickness tends to make me grumpy and critical.
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I was not required to write a review, favorable or otherwise.