~ About the Book ~
Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric–even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.
In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.
Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.
~ Excerpt ~
“Before we continue, might I have a volunteer from the audience? Someone who is quite certain they live a life of honor.”
Wren peered out into the crowd, the lights along the rows of seats carrying a dim glow all the way to the back of the auditorium. She paused, seconds only, Elliot judging that she waiting for her planted man to make his move. And though hands were flying up in droves, she didn’t call on them. She watched as the man stood, then opened her mouth to speak.
Elliot shot to his feet before Wren could protest. “Right here. I’m your volunteer,” he called out.
Connor sighed. “Matthews,” he moaned under his breath, shaking his head. “You can’t be serious.”
Elliot stripped out of his tuxedo jacket and lobbed it in Connor’s lap. “See you on the other side I guess.” He headed for the stage without waiting for welcome. Instead, he proceeded down the aisle and trotted up the stairs, stopping only when he stood opposite Wren and her chair of blooms.
He arched an eyebrow, offering a silent challenge in her direction.
“Thank you, sir. We can see how eager you are to participate this eve.” She tossed a knowing smile at the crowd.
Flashbulbs encased them in pops of light as laughter flavored the background.
“Like everyone here.” Hands in his pockets, Elliot looked out over the span of filled seats for the first time. “My curiosity is piqued.”
“Very well. We shall attempt to satisfy it. But first I must ask any volunteer if he has been on this stage before.”
Elliot shook his head. “I can honestly say I’ve never met the Wren Lockhart who stands onstage with me now.”
She have him a look that suggested “I’ll ignore your cheek” and continued. “Good.” She crossed the stage, then handed him the shears. “Then you may pick one, sir. Choose the bloom that is pretending.”
“Pretending what?” He reached out to take the tool in hand.
Wren notched her chin, as if the answer were simple. “The one that is lying, of course. Choose and clip the stem that is guilty of inauthenticity. We believe you to have honor, and as such, you should be able to find the masked culprit among the rest of the innocent.”
Elliot cleared his throat, humored that they traded barbs onstage no one else in the audience might decode, save for Connor or Irina. He accepted the challenge, turning back to the vase.
The blooms were indeed brilliant. Fragrant even, which was a surprise.
Elliot inspected them with a skeptical eye. He stood mere inches away, but for the life of him, he couldn’t see anything illegitimate. They could have been spring blooms in the entryway to a ladies’ parlor for how real they were. Even still, Elliot’s mind was bent on realism, and it pricked at the illusion before him.
What his eyes saw in the moment couldn’t be trusted.
She couldn’t be trusted. Not yet, anyway. Not while she held them all under the grand spell of her onstage illusions.
~ Review ~
This novel was absolutely magical! No doubt Wren Lockhart would take exception to my use of that word—she does illusions, not magic—but there really is no better word to describe the spell it wove over me as I sank into the world Kristy Cambron brought to life in its pages. The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a novel of suspense, revenge, heartache, love, and moments of breathtaking poignancy, and now I’m grasping for some way to do it justice in a review!
Wren Lockhart was such an intriguing person to get to know, and I loved the way her character and past were revealed layer by layer throughout the novel. Her story is one that tugs at the heartstrings in any guise, but woven through this novel the way it was, with Cambron’s deft use of imagery and subtext—it was utterly captivating! It’s so tempting to mention examples, but you really need to immerse yourself in the story to appreciate their poignancy. Wrens, that little door in the library, Versailles… They’re all the clues you’re getting!
Agent Elliot Matthews was also intrigued by Wren Lockhart from the beginning, but he certainly didn’t anticipate where that intrigue would take him. What began as an attempt to discover the truth about an illusion gone wrong leads him to discoveries of a completely different kind—a life-changing kind. And oh, he made my heart swell to capacity at times!
I was also fascinated by the glimpses of vaudeville life in the novel, in particular Wren’s performance the first time Elliot watches her show. It was mesmerizing in written form, so I can only imagine how much more so it would have been if performed live. And the subtext to the performance… So beautiful!
This is a stunning novel, in every way. Needless to say, it’s going ‘straight to the pool room!’
I received a copy of this novel through BookLook Bloggers. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 7 March 2017
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
~ Other Books by Kristy Cambron ~
~ About the Author ~
Kristy Cambron has a background in art and design, but she fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. She is the bestselling author of THE RINGMASTER’S WIFE, named to Publishers Weekly Spring 2016 Religion & Spirituality TOP 10. Her novels have been named to Library Journal Reviews’ Best Books and RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards Best lists, and received a 2015 INSPY Awards nomination for best debut novel. THE ILLUSIONIST’S APPRENTICE (HarperCollins, 2017) is her fourth novel.
Kristy holds a degree in Art History from Indiana University, and has 15 years experience in education and leadership development for a Fortune-100 Corporation. Kristy lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.