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Book Review: The Illusionist's Apprentice

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron (4 star review)

The Illusionist's Apprentice

written by Kristy Cambron

356 pages // published in 2017 // historical fiction


Harry Houdini’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.

My Review

4 Star Rating

It's the Jazz Age in Boston, Massachusetts. The great Harry Houdini, has left the earth, but his secrets still abound. Some people would kill to know such secrets...

Jenny Lockhart is a one-of-a-kind woman. She lives in a world pioneered by men, her life inspired by and propelled forward by Houdini himself. Socially, she is different than others; her dress resembles more of a classy man's than a woman's with flowing skirts. She lives fairly secluded when she's not performing her talent on stage.

What a bold woman that Jenny is! To be so independent, and to lead such a lonely life... my, my! By social standards, it would have been harder to accomplish this in the 20s than in modern day times, but she worked through it and did it by herself. Plus, she deals with the lemons that life gives her, even including villains, murder, and conniving plots to steal away her many secrets.

“A hero never causes hurt; she only lessens it.”

There are loads of references to illusions (true illusionist's don't approve of calling it magic, mind you), to the entertainment business in general, like vaudeville, and to the rush of spiritualism that was spreading around in that time period. These topics are not for everyone. I found it rather fascinating though, and I picked up on key historical elements and interesting tidbits about a world I didn't quite know about before. Also, I thought that the setting was so unique... it's not a story that takes place around Houdini's life, no! It only begins after he dies. As in, just the mention of his legend will always continue spreading the art of illusion and cloaked mystery.

“It's how we live that will convince them what is truth and what is an illusion.”

While The Illusionist's Apprentice does fall under the Christian fiction genre in a catalog, it is in no way preachy, as some similar books are. Honestly, I was slightly crestfallen while reading chapter after chapter, not finding too much spiritual food to go along with the story. I did find a spiritual message after all though, and the book was redeemed for me. Basically, it's a very clean read, and I think anyone (no matter your religious beliefs) could enjoy the story without feeling preached at.

Overall? I've now learned that Kristy Cambron is an excellent author. I would be pleased to read another of her books one day.

Thanks to NetGalley for a free copy of this book; I was not required to post a review.

Available on Amazon in paperback, e-book, and audio format.

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