Published by Endeavour Press
ebook and paperback : 21 May 2017
| About the Book |
Returning home from his travels with a stowaway named Kayan, Walter Balanchine is noted for the charms, potions and locket hanging from his neck.
Finding his friend Tom Winter’s mother unwell, he gives her a potion he learned to brew in the Far East. Lucid and free from pain, the old woman remembers something about Walter’s mother.
Walter is intrigued, for he has never known his family or even his own name – he christened himself upon leaving the workhouse.
Living in a cemetery with his pet panther Sinbad to keep the body snatchers away, word soon spreads of his healing and magical abilities and he becomes a sought after party performer.
During one of Walter’s parties, Tom is approached by Tamara Huntington, who reveals she is being forced to marry a man she does not love.
Will he and Walter come to her rescue?
Try as they might, sometimes all the best intentions in the world can’t put a stop to a bad thing, and she is soon married off to the cruel Cecil Hearst.
Drama and tragedy ensue, and Walter keeps his distance from Tamara.
That is until her stricken brother-in-law Daniel requires his magical healing, and he is forced back into her life.
With secrets beginning to emerge, Walter finds his mother may be a lot closer to home than he realised…
Filled with mystery, magic and larger than life characters, Illusion will keep you guessing until the very last page.
* * *
When I started my blog in 2013, Stephanie Elmas was one of the first authors to contact me to request a review of her book. That book was ‘The Room Beyond (reviewed here). I was so pleased that she did because that was a real gem of a read. When I saw that she had another book out, this time with Endeavour Press and the main character being Walter Balanchine, who had appeared in the previous book, I just had to read it. My review should have been part of the blog tour but for illness and various reasons it has been delayed. My apologies to Endeavour and to Stephanie.
The story begins in 1873 in London’s East End with Tom Winter being reunited after 3 years with his childhood friend from the workhouse, Walter Balanchine. Walter has been travelling in the Far East and brings home with him a child stowaway named Kayan and a black panther called Sinbad.
Walter is an intriguing and mysterious character. He became known as the ‘Wizard of the East End’ because of his seemingly mystical powers and his reputation of being a healer. With his distinctive and outlandish clothing together with the numerous charms and bottles of potions hanging from his neck, he stands out, not least because of his unusual looks – very tall with an almost skeletal build and thin wispy hair. However behind this unusual looking man was someone with a heart full of kindness and courage whose loyalty to his old friend knew no bounds. Walter has his own mystery to solve. Abandoned at a workhouse as a young child, he doesn’t know his mother, nor even his real name.
Times are hard for everybody and Tom lives in tiny lodgings with his sick mother and has a friend Sally who cares for his ma whilst he is working as a piano teacher. Sally loves Tom but when Tom meets and falls for wealthy Tamara Huntingdon, events are set in motion that will test Walter’s talents for magic and illusion.
Told in four parts with both Tom and Tamara having their own opportunity to tell their stories, Illusion was a wonderfully descriptive and atmospheric story; we are taken from the dangerous, foul smelling and fog ridden streets of London to the countryside of Somerset and then to Prague – each destination having its own sense of place. Walter was a fabulous character who shone from the page, in fact all the main characters were superbly drawn – from the kindness of Sally to the cruelty of Cecil Hearst and, with the exception of Cecil and his henchmen, I really cared what happened to them. The unexpected turns and surprises were superbly done – at one point my heart was racing at the sheer injustice.
Stephanie Elmas writes beautifully and in my opinion her writing just gets better. Illusion was a captivating story of intrigue and mystery that kept me engrossed from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
My thanks to Endeavour Press for the digital copy to review.
| About the Author |
Stephanie Elmas was born in Hong Kong to an English father and Czech mother but spent most of her childhood in Bristol. She studied English at university in London. Having worked as a head hunter, she taught English in Japan before returning to university to complete an MA in Victorian fiction. It was here that she developed her interest in the dark dangerous world of Victorian sensation writing. After the success of her first novel, The Room Beyond, Elmas has returned to write the tale of the early life of East End mystic and illusionist Walter Balanchine. When she is not writing, Elmas teaches secondary school English and juggles a chaotic household in Surrey.