I recommend that, if you do not know the basic premise of this book already, you stop reading this review immediately and go read the book—without reading the back cover. I went into this story knowing nothing about it, and I highly recommend you do the same. If you still wish to continue reading, please note that this review may contain spoilers, depending on your definition of "spoiler."
Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop.
Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier.
They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her.
Over twenty-five years ago, Frank Peretti wrote and published the astounding classic, This Present Darkness. Since then he has become one of the most well-known Christian authors still alive, publishing a new novel every few years until he suddenly disappeared from the writing world seven years ago, before returning two years ago to pen this novel.
Prior to Illusion, I'd only read one book by Frank Peretti. That was House, the last book he published (co-authored with Ted Dekker) before taking his extended writing break. In the past friends have tried to convince me, numerous times, to read more of Frank's books, but I've just never had the time, even though I've owned several of his books for some time now. When I was asked to review Illusion, however, I jumped at the chance. Various people had influenced me one way or another regarding the author, and frankly (pardon the pun), some of them had me doubting him, but in the end that did not diminish my enjoyment of the book.
The story starts strong—a tragedy has torn a man to pieces. Not literally, but in his mind. His wife, also stage partner and best friend, had been injured in a car accident and died a horrid death in a hospital. The man mourned her death, unable to accept that his companion for forty years was now gone forever. The next chapter is a flashback, or so it seems. It's about the deceased woman, the man's wife, hanging out with college friends at a fair in 1970, forty years before the accident. The reader hangs around for the flashback, enjoying it but wondering where it's going, then—BAM! Everything changes. It comes out of nowhere and just leaves you thinking, "Woah..." Never before have I been awed like that as early as Chapter 2 in any book.
Things often make no sense throughout the book. You find yourself thinking, "There is no way there can be a logical explanation for this." You think it's cool, but in the end, since you can't think of any possible solution or explanation to the magic and illusions, you think it won't be all that cool when it's actually revealed and explained. If you find yourself thinking that, you're dead wrong. Not only does everything have a logical explanation, but it blows your mind away.
Frank Peretti has truly created a story worthy to be passed down through generations. The plot, which changes much over the course of the book, is extremely intricate and drags you along, whether you want it to or not. I can easily understand how it took two years to write, especially with the amount of research put into it. The characters were unforgettable, the emotions undeniable, and the ending was the type of ending that dropped my jaw and made me say to myself, "Now, if I could write an ending like that, it would sell millions."
Five stars. Five stars all the way. Early on in my reading I was leaning toward four stars, but by the end I couldn't imagine giving it such a low rating. I was amazed; impressed beyond words. I can't wait to read what else Frank Peretti has written and, of course, what he's going to write in the future. Illusion is one book that deserves to be remembered for a very long time.
Thanks to Howard Books and Handlebar Marketing for sending me a free review copy, and special thanks to Julie Busteed of Handlebar Marketing for being so helpful (or at least doing her best to try). :)