Today’s book came highly recommended to me, so it pains me to say that in truth, I was more than a little disappointed by it. It’s like when your friend recommends a movie by telling you that it’s the most life-changing thing since Iron Man, so you go in expecting some Winter Soldier levels of amazingness, and instead you get Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean. My point is, I was really expecting it to be better, and I’m sad to say that it’s not. Illusions of Fate, by Kiersten White, is about the young Jessamin Olea, who’s studying at a school in Albion far from her native island country of Melei. By chance, she happens to meet Lord Finley Ackerly one night, and she’s immediately swept up in a world of intrigue, romance, and, of course, high treason.
This is a (too) fast-paced book that begins with a brilliant premise: what if magic was concentrated only in a few bloodlines and those people with magic were the leaders of many, if not all, countries? Suddenly being royalty or of royal descent doesn’t make you a useless figurehead—the aristocracy wield real power, and have all the privilege that’s associated with positions of power. To make the real-world comparisons even stronger, Melei is a country of dark-skinned people, and Albion is the Victorian England-esque country that has conquered and subjugated it. A fantasy novel with serious discussions of race and privilege through the lens of magic? It’s like Christmas came early for me. Unfortunately, though the premise is indeed amazing, the story itself is limited because White doesn’t fully engage with the world and with the (admittedly tough) themes she chose to utilize.
Spoilers for the whole book after the cut.