The darkly compelling Devil, an unrepentant gambler with a haunted past, grabs readers’ attention from page one. Surrounding him is a varied cast that includes Heinrich Bayer, who unnervingly treats his mechanical dance partner like a real woman, and Eliza Dunlop, a smart, courageous artist’s model hoping for a starring role in Devil’s life. While the background details on stage magic and the theater business are captivating, Devil and Eliza’s ardent love story is the book’s emotional heart, and the ever-changing connections among all its intriguing performers fill it with genuine life and vitality.
Some additional comments:
- Rosie Thomas is a prolific UK author who has worked with a variety of styles and settings. Her earlier The Kashmir Shawl (reviewed here in 2012) won the Romantic Novelists' Association award for best epic romance, but The Illusionists isn't the same type of book.
- Although the British cover for The Illusionists (at right) is gorgeous and no doubt has the book flying off the shelves, I think the US version (at top) fits the tone of the story more appropriately. Note the differences in color, subject matter, and font.
- The publisher's description for this novel has errors. The novel takes place in the year 1885, not 1870, and Devil's partner is Carlo Boldoni, not Bonomi. The mistakes have crept into many other reviews, alas. Naturally, the author's website has it right.