Reviewed by: E & Marlene
E: I was very pleased to hear that Castle would be continuing her expansion of Harmony because I really enjoy her futuristic stories. I was also curious to find out what problems or opportunities would appear with the recent, SIREN’S CALL, discovery of a huge underground city with some unusual para-psych energy. I also wanted to learn more about the Coppersmiths because they keep popping up and unlike most of the para-psychs they don’t fit into the Jones & Jones structure or the Ghost-hunter/archaeologist structure but seem to run parallel to both. While Castle certainly gave me information in those two areas she also continued to raise the stakes with the illegal underground competition for power and alien relics.
Marlene: I also love Jayne Castle’s Harmony series, as well as her Arcane Society series written as Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz. I was absolutely overjoyed when the three series finally connected up in Midnight Crystal, if not a bit before. There were some cool moments in Illusion Town where there were little shout-outs to the 19th, 20th and 21st century forebears of Harmony. All wrapped up in that marvelous underground city discovered at the end of Siren’s Call.
E: I really enjoyed the opening and first chapter of ILLUSION TOWN and found myself giggling as I felt this was going to have a bit lighter set-up the previous books at least when it came to the existing relationship between H/H. I thought having Elias proving himself against Hannah’s fears and the stereotypes of her para-psych profile instead of a combative past history allowed for an even focus on external and internal conflict. This was really a story between equals who knew they were very good with their individual skills but uncertain about interpersonal relationships and dealing with an unknown possibly complex threat. In other words, a lot of fun to read.
Marlene: The set up for this adventure was oodles of fun. Waking up the morning after in bed with one’s midnight spouse after a drunken quickie wedding in Vegas (or the equivalent) is a fun trope to play with. This story turns that on its head. The marriage is real, but the reasons for it are far from the usual. These are two people who fall in love by solving a mystery together. And it turns out that their psi-burned selves were a whole lot smarter than their more sober versions in more ways than one. And I always adore a romance of equals, and Illusion Town certainly delivers on that promise!
E: Elias, usually working in the lab at the Coppersmith Headquarters, was in charge of the team exploring the Ghost City. He had the family ability to manipulate some of the energy in city using different hot rocks. While a scientist, he possessed an instinct for the hunt and a large dose of protectiveness towards those around him yet he was able to not let them overwhelm his trust in Hannah’s skills. Hannah was also a hunter of sorts, she used dream-light, lucid dreaming, and intuition to find things and preferably not other humans. She also possessed an equally keen sense of responsibility for those around her and a deep loyalty to her family. Watching their skills mesh and blend as the story developed was fascinating. I also enjoyed the various twists Castle included along the way as she turned a few things up on edge.
Marlene: These are two people with very unusual talents. One of the great things about the story is the way that those talents mesh. Also the way that they are each able to push past each other’s well-earned boundaries. Not because they just push, but because they really “get” each other. And I loved that they were both unusual talents, and that they had the ability to help each other deal with their unusual-ness. No one is trying to change anyone else, instead there is acceptance and appreciation. And like my friend E, I liked the way that Elias was able to show his protective side without trying to put Hannah on a pedestal or hold her back in the guise of keeping her safe. They need each other to solve the mystery.
They also need Hannah’s dust bunny Virgil. Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore the dust bunnies? They are the most fun little predators I have ever read about, and they steal every scene they are in.
E: One of the things I enjoy about Castle’s stories is the eccentric cast of supporting characters. ILLUSION TOWN is no exception from her aunts to the delivery runners to the powerbrokers and the dust bunnies. Each had a critical role to play and were as protective of Hannah as she was of them. The only aspect regarding the supporting cast which, seemed slightly under developed was the Coppersmith side. The previous book dealt with Elias’ brother but the Coppersmiths seem to be more a bunch of connected loners than Hannah and her life. I would have really enjoyed seeing some sustained mutual interaction because I think they would have provided me with a lot of amusement. I might also have some questions about the Coppersmiths since they have popped up under her Krentz name in her Dark Legacy series.
Marlene: We do get way more about Hannah and her family-of-choice than we see regarding Elias and his birth family. But the people that Hannah brought to this story were very intriguing. I found the way that the Illusion Club ran the town, and the bunch of extreme (and extremely powerful) eccentrics that made up the club to be fascinating. I hope we see some more stories about them.
E: ILLUSION TOWN was an enjoyable read. I liked how the relationship started on a different tone then Castle’s previous few Harmony stories. I found their building relationship and professional interactions just as captivating as they continued to respect each other’s skills without dancing around their abilities. Once again, I am reassured in keeping Castle on my autobuy list and I look forward to her next story.
I give ILLUSION TOWN a B+
Marlene: Illusion Town was a lot of fun, and the right book at the right time for me. I enjoyed the way the story started a bit in media res, where some of the action has already happened and it’s up to our heroes to figure out how they got into the mess they find themselves. I also enjoyed how the villain, who shall remain nameless, was effectively hoist on his own petard, as Shakespeare once said. Those desserts were definitely just. As always, I am looking forward to the next story in this series, whether it is in the Arcane Society here on Earth or Harmony in the future.
I give Illusion Town an A-