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Illusion Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews Review

Okay, it's a retelling of the French Revolution, but there's magic in this story. You know what's going to happen by page 3, though some of the particulars differ. The familiar-seeming background makes the sorcery-touched story that much more engrossing. Read this for Volsky's wonderful fillips of detail, which make her story live and breathe, and read it for her engaging characters: Eliste's education in the gilded palace of the Beviaire and in the streets of Shereen, Dref Zeenoson's rise, ingenious Uncle Quinz's illusions. But watch out: it's nearly impossible to stop reading this absorbing, densely-plotted novel, and that's the real magic.

From Library Journal

As political unrest threatens the country of Vonahr and peasant-philosophers publicly question the innate magical powers of the Exalted ruling class, young noblewoman Eliste vo Derrivale concerns herself with truly important matters--her debut at the Royal Court of Sherreen--blissfully unaware of the violence that will soon shatter her privileged life. Volsky's ( The Sorcerer's Lady , Ace: Berkeley, 1986) latest novel, a fantasy re-creation of the French Revolution, captures the atmosphere of a world in turmoil. The fantasy element is understated but integral to the plot, as magical and political illusions vie for supremacy. Like Ursula K. Le Guin's Malafrena (Putnam, 1979) and Orsinian Tales ( LJ 10/1/76), this quasihistorical adventure should have considerable crossover appeal. Recommended for most libraries.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 10 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (February 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553560220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553560220
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) VINE VOICE on August 21, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This novel, a fictionalization of the French Revolution set in the invented kingdom of "Vonahr" and laced with a little bit of magic, is a gem of historical fantasy and ought to be a classic. The author combines epic ideals, all-too-human characters, and lovely prose to create a book I couldn't put down and will never forget.
The events of these turbulent times are seen through the eyes of a high-born young woman, Eliste vo Derrivalle. Eliste is at first a product of her society and upbringing--a spoiled brat who doesn't think to question her class's superiority over the serfs and working class. She is only willing to respect one serf--the brilliant Dref Zeenoson, whose talents belie everything Eliste has been taught about the inferiority of his kind. When Eliste's father shows himself as a cruel master, and Dref defies him, only Eliste can save Dref from a terrible fate. She frees him--and then tries to put this subversive incident out of her mind.
For Eliste has been appointed as a maid of honor to the Queen herself. She travels to the capital and is trained in courtly ways. But the fairy-tale court is not long for this world; a revolution is beginning. When Eliste loses everything she had taken for granted, she will have to learn to survive just like everyone else. But she will not always be without help--for there is one person who has never forgotten Eliste's first act of heroism. This is an enthralling, heartbreaking, and suspenseful story, made all the better by its wonderfully drawn characters: the ingenious Dref, the stubbornly dignified grand dame Zeralenn, the incorrigibly shallow Aurelie, the so-sweet Kairthe, and even the terrifying Whiss v'Aleur, who lays waste to a nation to assuage his childhood feelings of inadequacy.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "fallstarr" on February 26, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a book about metamorphasis and the change of a petty, spoiled "exaulted" (noble) girl named Eliste.
Illusion is obviously a fantasy take on the French revolution, so it's fairly clear what is going to happen...but so what--that doesn't reduce the suspense any. A reader interested in history will easily be able to pick out the parallels of in characters, the guillotine, and the palace at Versailles.
I couldn't put this book down. You will want to read Illusion in one sitting, partially because it's so gripping, partially because you can't bear to leave the character until the situation gets, at least, slightly better. The middle of the book reminded me of nothing so much as a nightmare, the kind where you are always afraid, always running, where all your family and the people around you are caught or killed. Thankfully, three-fourths of the way through, the books lightens a little, and the ending is somewhat optimistic.
Volsky's world is richly textured and totally immersive. Illusion perfectly captures the terror of a revolution, the anger of the masses, the rioting, and the revolution's metamorphasis from idealistic to dictatorial. It is an engrossing fantasy take on the French revolution and well worth your time.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lesley West on October 15, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The adventures of the Exalted Eliste are very entertaining indeed. Our heroine is appropriately fesity, the settings well drawn, and the other characters who populate her world are interesting and believable. But what makes this story so different, and really quite entertaining, is that it is really a tale of suffering and redemption following the French Revolution, but in a different world and time. Following this, everything that Eliste knows and holds to be true is swept away in fear and violence, and her struggle to survive in this changing world is the centrepiece of the book.
Eliste's world is not France of course, and the King and Queen are not Louis and Marie Antoinette, but they may as well be (though they have no children). The strict formalities that surrounded the French Court are faithfully related here, and you come to believe in this society where the Exalted lived just as the aristocracy did in France. Anyone who is familiar with the French Revolution will find this very clever - the reader can indulge in a game of "find the characters" - Marat for instance, who spent most of his time in a bath due to an unpleasant skin condition, is transformed into the beggar leader Fungus (who as the name suggests has an equally unpleasant skin condition). Even the guillotine is transformed into something far more nasty - a machine called Kokette with enormous spikes and needs of its own!
Interspersed with all this is some magic, some terrible hardship (the author does not shirk from some rather graphic descriptions of hardship and deprivation), and of course love. Eliste travels a rocky road from a spoilt young lady to a woman with rather formiddable skills and fortitude.
This is a different, clever and entertaining book. It is quite long, but thankfully keeps your attention for the whole time. I recommend it highly for people who enjoy a great story, fabulous writing and a complex plot.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Maceres on April 7, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Honestly, it's a good book. I haven't read it since it was new, probably 10 years ago, but I can't forget it, and came looking for it again. Don't listen to any reviewer who says the characters are "1 dimensional". At the end of this book you will know Eliste vo Derrivalle, and if you're a guy you'll probably be in love with her, though you'll hate her at first. A decade later the phrases "coquettes of the kokotte" and "nits of nu-nu" will still bring pictures into your mind. This is good stuff.
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