Cruel Illusions

S. & S./McElderry. Nov. 2022. 512p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781665902106.
Gr 9 Up–When Ava was eight years old, a vampire murdered her mother, leaving Ava and her brother Parker orphaned. Nine years later, Parker has found a permanent home, and Ava sets out on a mission to avenge her mother’s death by hunting the vampires that killed her. When she stumbles into a group of magicians in need of another troupe member for an upcoming competition, it seems like the perfect opportunity to achieve her goals. In this genre-defying mash-up world of vampires and stage magic, Ava’s own desire to find a family and her deep-rooted hatred of vampires make it difficult for her to know which of her instincts to trust. To make matters worse, she finds herself caught between smoldering Roman and dynamic Xander, both of whom are captivating and likely hiding something. Built on an intriguing premise that combines a contemporary setting with magical and fantastical elements, a slow set-up and methodical worldbuilding pays off for patient readers when the immersive magic tricks and action scenes get started.
VERDICT A recklessly brave main character and witty, well-defined secondary characters keep a complex plot afloat.

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