Illusion, by Dy Loveday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Post-apocalyptic world torn by magic, a female lead who hallucinates, different dimensions, demons and past lives - how does a reader categorize this book? Is it fantasy, paranormal or urban fantasy? Regardless of the classification, the story is well-written.
Ms. Loveday creates a dysfunctional magical world where life as a human is grim. It is as if the soul of mankind is sucked out of existence. Earth is divided between the magi and humans. The outcasts are the hybrids which both races distrust.
Maya McAdam is losing her mind. She's a human who just wants to stop her nightmares and physical pain. She's considered a spell junkie because she needs it to help her bodily pain and delusions. She's trying to eke out a living through her artwork. Unfortunately, her dark fantasy sketches are her downfall. It demonstrates an ability she should not possess. Now warlocks, witches, magi and demons want her. Some want her dead; others want her alive and collared.
Resheph is from another world, one which Maya doesn't believe exists. He is enigmatic and reeks of dark power. Will he help her or destroy her? What is his motive? Why does he befriend her?
Ms. Loveday's world building is fabulous. While there are many made-up words, it isn't confusing. It's very easy to follow and understand the different worlds and inhabitants. She spent a good deal of time creating each race and entwining it to make a cohesive world. Even when she used unfamiliar names for each character, it was easy to remember each one because the characters are well designed and unique. Every character, whether large or small, played a part. There were no extraneous characters to distract from the storyline. Every character did exactly what they needed to do for the story to progress forward and make sense.
This book is packed with betrayal, sorrow, despair and cruelty. Yet hope fights on and brings about a bittersweet ending to this first book in the series. The realities of corrupting power is an insidious theme snaking through the book. Even though the story is from the point of view of the tarnished and questionable "good guys", it doesn't mean that they will win. One could argue the battle was barely a stalemate and it's questionable how the war will end. This kind of ending where the good guys don't come out on top with a magically happily ever after is more powerful than the usual "Disney effect happily ever after". It makes a reader think and yearn. And when a reader hopes for a palpable resolution, then they are engaged. This makes for a good reading experience and a higher rating. I'm completely invested in this story and I want to know what will happen to Maya.
Better yet, there is no deus ex machine. Too often, authors write themselves into a corner and become unable to save the hero or heroine without some powerful being magically saving the day. Ms. Loveday does a great job of bringing about a conclusion without fully resolving the conflicts. Although she did involve a deity. Yet this deity is mentioned throughout the story and critical in the storyline.
This rich fantasy is recommended for readers who enjoy a darker side where the good guys don't always come out unscathed.
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