cover image Illusions of Fate

Illusions of Fate

Kiersten White. HarperTeen, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-213589-6

White (A Chaos of Stars) claims the influence of Jane Austen on her latest fantasy, but the hero, Finn, is less reminiscent of Mr. Darcy than of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey—all nervy blond elegance. Like Wimsey, Finn has a nameless role to play in keeping the empire out of war (in this case, the magic-wielding nation of Albion). Finn falls in love at first sight, most inappropriately, with narrator Jessamin, an illegitimate “island rat” whose father is a professor in Albion and whose mother is a marriage-obsessed native of Melei, a colony. Jessamin has blackmailed her father to gain entrance to an exclusive school, but she works in a hotel to make ends meet, a situation that allows for riffs on A Little Princess as Finn—and Finn’s enemies—inflict their attention and wealth on her. White’s critique of colonialism can sit awkwardly on the adventure/romance plot—Jessamin makes long speeches about the oppression she experiences, but there are no special insights offered. Ideology aside, the characters make a believable and intriguing connection across their cultural divide. Ages 13–up. Agent: Michelle Wolfson, Wolfson Literary. (Sept.)