Paula Volsky

Books: Fantasy

Illusion (1992)

Illusion (1992)


Illusion is a good book, however I can't say I really like it.

The characters are good--very good. Despite the fact that she started out as a rich snob, I liked Eliste. Her snobbery was obviously a product of her upbringing, and beneath it she showed herself to be a decent human being. The same can also be said for her grandmother, and several other characters.

Paula Volsky also did a good job a showing the frivolous stupidity that exists. And how that stupidity can be partnered with charm that for many makes it forgivable. This is most apparent in the character of Aurelie, however I was fascinated by the way that Aurelie's most stupid and unforgivable errors could in many ways be traced back to Eliste. Eliste's love for her cousin allowed her to let slide errors that would prove to be quite costly.

The villains are also very well done. Instead of having the rather flat, one-dimensional, evil characters that so many fantasy books portray, the villains are complex characters who are very human. You can see how they go to where they are, and how they don't see themselves as villains.

The story is one of revolution. The current government is a monarchy, with a noble elite and serfdom, and all the excesses such a government can entail. Through this political strife comes Eliste, innocent, naive, and like many in the ruling class, clueless as to much of what is happening around her. Yet she is also selectively blind, refusing to see the abuses that are before her, yet because of her youth and background, it is hard to fault her for it.

The cover of this book is fantastic--I believe I bought this book solely because of the cover. For once, I don't begrudge the fact that the cover depicts events that occur well into the book, as you're not entirely certain until you've read them, precisely what those events are.

Despite it's strengths, however, for me the book had several problems. First of which was the political intrigue. Because the main character does not care a whit about politics, the point of view switches to other characters, and it is with those characters that the long political discourse occurs. The problem is that these switches are abrupt, and the political characters are not well-developed before they start spouting long diatribes. At which point I asked, "Why do I care about this?" and skimmed a great deal.

The second problem is my own. A book about revolution is going to be bloody, which I didn't think of when I went to reread the book. I could only read about so many executions and so much misery until I began to skim the horrors, as much as I had the political intrigue. Others may well not find this to be a problem.

The only other issue was that her surprises weren't that much of a surprise to me. I don't know whether it's because I remembered more of the book than I thought I did (possible), but chapters before they occurred, I was aware of the directions the plot would take, yet I was surprised by the last several chapters.

So as I said, it's a good book, but not one that I particularly like, or am planning on reading again.

Rating: 5/10