“I think it must’ve been a person who’d wished for love but had never known it who’d created the first clock. Because time is a reminder of how quickly the present passes and how little of the future remains, and no one in love would want to know that.”
― Shaun David Hutchinson, Before We Disappear
After narrowly escaping Paris when his employer/adoptive mother is accused of stealing a rival’s illusion, Jack finds himself in Seattle the month before the 1909 Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition. While there, he and his adoptive sister Lucia are tasked with ensuring the success of their mother, Evangeline, “The Enchantress,” in her bid to become the most famous illusionist in the world. Instead of sweeping in and awing the audiences, they are forced to deal with a previously-unheard-of-magician who performs the seemingly impossible Butterfly illusion. It turns out that the success of these rival illusionists depends entirely on the talents of their adoptive (or kidnapped) children.
The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Jack and Wilhelm. While Jack chooses to stay with The Enchantress, Wilhelm is held captive and abused by Teddy. Wilhelm’s special skills make him invaluable for Teddy’s string of high-profile crimes. At first, Jack gets close to Wilhelm to understand how Evangeline can win out over Teddy, but he soon learns of Wilhelm’s dire situation. Despite urging Wilhelm to abandon Teddy, Wilhelm insists he must remain or Teddy will kill Jack and Teddy’s newly-hired magician’s assistant, Jessamy.
Jack is the classic con artist who has been brought up to believe that his only value comes from what he can do to help Evangeline. His sister, Lucia, is the brains behind all of Evangeline’s illusions but never receives any recognition for her brilliant work. Because of her physical disability, she is made to live in the wings, out of sight.
This was recommended to me by my local librarian! After devouring nearly all of Leigh Bardugo’s books as well as Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle and the Dreamer trilogy, I was looking for more books with similar themes and characters.
Despite the promising description, I did not love this book. In fact, I am surprised that Wilhelm and Teddy survived as long as they did because neither one of them is especially bright. Which is sad since we are told time and time again what a bookworm Wilhelm is. However, in his defense, Wilhelm was emotionally and physically abused by Teddy and then gaslit into believing that he deserved it and that no one would ever understand or love him.
The romance between Jack and Wilhelm is interesting until it isn’t. I just cannot deal with Wilhelm. He’s just…sigh…too pure. I would have much rather spent time with Ruth and learned more about how she ended up at the exposition and what happened to her and her partner at the end of the story.
The best thing about this book is the setting. The 1909 Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition in Seattle really happened! I have spent quite a bit of time in Seattle and in the Pacific Northwest, so I truly enjoyed imagining Jack, Ruth, and Wilhelm running around downtown and some of my favorite neighborhoods. If you love Seattle and its history, this book is a quick and easy read with a little romance thrown in for good measure.
- CBR15 Bingo History square
- CBR15 Passport Recommended to me by a friend