A terrifying place for a young, beautiful woman of limited means. But Eliza is modern before her time. Not for her the stifling if respectable conventionality of marriage, children, domestic drudgery. She longs for more. Through her work as an artist’s model, she meets the magnetic and irascible Devil – a born showman whose dream is to run his own theatre company.
Devil’s right-hand man is the improbably named Carlo Bonomi, an ill-tempered dwarf with an enormous talent for all things magic and illusion. Carlo and Devil clash at every opportunity and it constantly falls upon Eliza to broker an uneasy peace between them. And then there is Jasper Button. Mild-mannered, and a family man at heart, it is his gift as an artist which makes him the unlikely final member of the motley crew.
Thrown together by a twist of fate, their lives are inextricably linked: the fortune of one depends on the fortune of the other. And as Eliza gets sucked into the seductive and dangerous world her strange companions inhabit, she risks not only her heart, but also her life…
Rosie Thomas paints a wonderfully detailed and textured picture of London in the late 19th century; you can practically feel the cloying mud of side streets, the smoke of the fires and the life and soul of the theatre. Her characters are superbly rounded and well-developed and you cannot help but feel that you know them. I enjoyed every moment I spent reading this book and found it hard to put down as I got drawn into Rosie’s story.
Devil Wix is a highly driven and haunted character (his past and its tragic events have never quite left him.) Eliza was a strong female character – not content to accept the life that society had in store for a woman in the era in which this book is set. Carlo was long-suffering and although he was a genius and revered, I got the feeling he could never be truly happy. It was not surprising to me that these characters should find one another. The characters were described well and it was easy to picture them.
The atmosphere and tone and characters in this book are brilliant. To me, it seems well researched and it had a magical and gothic feel which appealed to me.
This was my first introduction to Rosie Thomas and it’s a book I would throughly recommend.
The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas is published by Harper Collins £16.99 hardback
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