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Friday, February 21, 2014

Unique, Magical Take on WWII Engaging, if Not Totally Satisfying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For 17-year-old Philomena "Phil" Albion and her sister, Phoebe ("Fee"), creating illusions to dazzle eager audiences is just a part of life.  Like generations of Albions before them, the girls are gifted stage illusionists.  Both are passionate about magic and can't imagine a life that doesn't involve sequined costumes, thunderous applause and the thrill of performing sold-out shows night after night after night.  But that's exactly what happens after the London Blitz when Phil and Fee are sent to the countryside, where they'll be safe from Nazi bombing raids.

Separated from their family, with little to occupy them but farm chores, the girls hardly know what to do with themselves.  Never one to sit around twiddling her thumbs, Phil—who's filled with "the fervent need to perform some patriotic act immediately" (19)—decides to create a Home Guard out of the ignorant country folk, none of whom seem to realize there's a war on.  Ever the dreamer, Fee is busy reading love stories and chasing chickens when her sister stumbles across a hidden castle full of potential soldiers.  Much to Phil's shock, it's actually a wizarding college (think Hogwarts, just with an older student body) that has no use for female magicians, especially those who know little of real magic.   Determined to prove she's a match for any of the wizards (particularly the arrogant young Arden), Phil refuses to stay away.  Who cares if the wizards-in-training don't want her around?  Phil will do anything not just to impress them with her own magical ability, but to convince them to join her Home Guard.

Naturally, complications abound.  And the harder Phil works, the less things seem to go her way.  As the Nazis edge closer and closer to Sussex, she's becoming more and more frantic.  Can Phil persuade the gutless wizards to help her defend England?  Can she make any of the small-town residents care about something beyond their farms?  It will take all of Phil's charm—and more than a little of her magic—to accomplish her goals.  No matter what, she's willing to risk it all, even if she has to give up her life, or her heart, in the process.

When a copy of Delusion, a historical YA novel by Laura L. Sullivan, arrived on my doorstep, I got a very pleasant surprise.  I mean, a unique, magic-laden take on World War II?  Yes, please!  From the cover art to the plot summary to the intriguing premise, the novel practically guaranteed an entertaining story.  Did it deliver?  More or less.  Phil and Fee are both funny, likable characters.  Sullivan's prose is clever and engaging.  Despite a few predictable twists, Delusion's plot kept me engaged.  And yet ... the story just wasn't quite as satisfying as I hoped it would be.  It's a bit anti-climatic, for one.  Also, the idea in the novel that I found most intriguing—that of the girls' parents working with a special magical unit of the military to misdirect the Nazis' attention away from key targets/missions—really wasn't explored at all.  In the end, then, I enjoyed Delusion, even if I didn't love, love, love it.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Delusion from the generous folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Thank you!


  1. Huh, it sounds good but for some reason I Don't feel a need to read it.

  2. This does look like a different kind of WWII book.


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