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I wasn't sure what to expect going into The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron. I don't know much about 1920's vaudeville, and I don't even know that much about Harry Houdini (besides that he was an amazing illusionist). This book sucked me right into that world though!
This book opens with a man named Stapleton supposedly raising a man from the dead - only to have him die moments later. Wren Lockhart, a famous illusionist, is very skeptical and dislikes when performers feed off of other's grief...so she agrees to help Elliot Matthews, an FBI agent who is investigating the supposedly-raised-to-life man's death. However, it quickly becomes clear that this mystery goes a lot deeper than a trick, involving Wren's past that she would rather keep buried.
While this book is subtly Christian, with passing references to Christ being the only man to truly conquer death, the story itself wasn't rooted in the Christian faith. Sometimes it bothers me having a book with hardly any trace of Christianity coming from a Christian publisher, but the way Cambron handled her story made it seem more natural. If she had forced in too many faith references it would have been awkward, so I understood it in this book, and it seemed to work. I'd say this book isn't overtly "Christian", but has some Christian influences since the author is a believer.
I thought this book was so well-written. The whole thing had a mysterious air about it, before we even got to the mystery part of the story, and I credit that to Cambron's ability to create atmosphere. The author weaves in so many elements to the story but really manages to make it all cohesive. I was rooting for Wren and Elliot right from the start, and their romance was full of old-style flair. The author also seemed to take a lot of care with her historical facts, and wove in so many pieces of history that I didn't recognize them all until I read her Afterword - still it gave a really authentic feel to this book. I also liked what the author did with some of the secondary characters, and everyone's personality was colorful and distinct. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by Cambron!
Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This is my honest opinion.