Review: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading Level: Young Adult, 12+
Pages: 288 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare in this lush, romantic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White.

“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.”

Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.

Kiersten White captured readers’ hearts with her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy and its effortless mix of magic and real-world teenage humor. She returns to that winning combination of wit, charm, and enchantment in Illusions of Fate, a sparkling and romantic new novel perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, The Madman’s Daughter, and Libba Bray.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This book is a very quick and satisfying read. Perfect for rainy days, if you ask me. I was greatly anticipating it because I haven't had the best relationship with Kiersten White books. Her plot lines always make me fall in love and I either really enjoy the execution or I really hate it. For the most part, I tend to not like them for some reason or another, which is a huge bummer. However, this book gives me hope. While not what I wanted it to be, I did enjoy this one. I can't give it a high rating because I had many issues, but if there is one thing this book is, it's enjoyable.

After spending a summer reading hundreds of query letters for my internship at a literary agency, I'm a huge stickler for the beginning of a book. I never realized just how important that first chapter--or even the first three--really are. I don't think the beginning of this book was very strong. I was more confused than anything else and I was immediately put off by this insta-love scenario between Finn and Jessamine. Granted, it was resisted on her end and not forced on his, so it was more like an insta-attraction, and it eventually was explained in a believable way, but the way their eventual coupling was introduced was bothersome to me. I almost DNFed because of it, but decided to persevere.

Onto our main character, Jessamine. She's incredibly intelligent and I love that, but she's super dense when it comes to romance. She frustrated me more than anything else. While I can respect her brains and her desire to do what is right, the obvious fact that Finn courted her for the entire book and she didn't catch that was just groan-worthy. I actually read the book more for secondary characters than anything else. Sir Bird was a surprising gem. He's pretty much a crow that turns into a magical book that she stole from an evil nemesis trying to ruin her home country. He's sassy and hilarious and I desperately want my own version of him. He's also a huge source of comic relief at the weirdest moments and he never ceased to put a smile on my face. Animal companions for the win!

Eleanor is also a very strong character. She is the most gossipy character I have ever met, but White finds a way to use her as entertainment and a strong ally all the same. Instead of being annoying, she's almost used as comedic relief in a form of parody of noble women in this historical time period. I have a feeling history buffs will love her. Though she prefers lounging around, gossiping, and writing letters, she is much more powerful and hilarious than you'd ever guess. She was, perhaps, my favorite character.

And though Finn was just as much part of the hazy insta-love happening in this one, I adored him. He was charming and snarky in his own right. He was protective and gentlemanly and, in the end, outright kind. He saw past Jessa's roots and the color of skin to the intelligent girl underneath and he is just one of those characters that is hard not to enjoy. However, the whole mysterious, hot, rich nobleman that all the women want to be with sweeping in a random poor girl from a lesser country/island/nation and falling madly in love with her sub-plot really annoyed me. A bit cliche, no?

The world-building wasn't all that upfront. It took me a while to get a firm grasp on this society where people know magic exists, though I oddly enjoyed this unique take on magic as opposed to fighting to keep it secret. The pacing in this also threw me off. Things just went by way too fast, almost like the entire book was the equivalent of a set of dominoes perfectly lined up to fall one after the other. The wasn't much detail. I feel like things kept getting thrown at me. My mind is thinking back to the book and the only way to order events is to say "this happened then this happened then this happened!" I repeat...not enough spacing and detail in-between big events and super big reveals. Especially at the end! That last ten percent was really rushed and a bit anti-climatic for all it was built up to be.

But, I have to admit, this book put a smile on my face. I turned the last page happy despite all of my issues, and you can't ask for much more from a book. Far from perfect, but definitely overall satisfactory. Most people I've come across have absolutely adored this one, so I say give it a chance despite all of my personal problems. It is definitely a tale worth reading! White's creativity is clearly evident in this surprisingly funny and twisted magical tale.

2.5 stars


FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation in exchange for my honest review.


  1. Interesting review Lili, can I ask what your expectations were? I haven't read anything by Kiersten White so I basically know nothing about her style.

    And I completely agree about the first few chapters. If I'm not interested by the end of the second chapter, it's going to be a painful read for me.

    I'm happy this is a quick read though, thanks for your honesty!

    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    1. I haven't read much by her, but I'm noticing her style involves childish characters, which is not something I enjoy. My expectations were high because of magic and the fact that this plot looks like the most appealing one of any she's written thus far, but I had my issues, obviously.

      I both liked and disliked this book, but not enough to give it a neutral three stars. In the end, I think many people will enjoy it though.

  2. It's too bad about the first three chapters. I think the art of letting a story unfold slowly is kind of getting lost, but I totally see how people want to be drawn in right away.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. Perfect wording. It's almost like such a thing is becoming a lost art.

  3. Thanks for the honest review! I've read mostly good things about it, so I'll be interested to see how the problems you point out affect me when I read it.

    1. I think that this book is just polarizing. I enjoyed it, but I didn't all at once.