• book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Imperfect Illusions by Vanora Lawless

    Devastating Magic: Imperfect Illusions – Vanora Lawless

    A drafted empath. A dreamwalking poet. A world at war.

    Chicago, 1917.

    Idealistic, aspiring poet, Elliot Stone can make people feel euphoria or horror with a simple touch. But that’s only part of his magical abilities. He can also wake in the dreams of people he cares deeply for.

    Stubborn, fiercely independent Warren “Sully” Sullivan is an illusionist with a secret of his own: he feels the emotions of others as visceral sensations. That, and a lifetime of fending for himself, has left him guarded.

    On their last night of freedom before shipping off to training—military and magic—Elliot and Sully indulge in an explosive, emotional night together. Elliot assumes it’s a one night stand and nothing more, until he awakens in Sully’s nightmare. The urge to rescue Sully is impossible to resist. And when dream-Sully begs him to keep coming back, something Sully would never do while awake, Elliot can’t resist that either.

    As real life draws them into battle, their shared dreams become a refuge that only Elliot recalls. So when Elliot has the opportunity to recruit Sully to the secret elite unit of magical soldiers he leads, he’s willing to risk everything for the man he’s fallen in love with in dreams. But being away from the front lines doesn’t mean Sully’s safe. Now they battle enemies with twisted magic where their secrets are a liability.

    Can they bring their dreams—and love—to life? Or will the war cost them everything?

    Historical MM romances set during WWI are few and far in between. Add to that super soldiers with magic, and it’s definitely a must-read!

    Imperfect Illusions is the series opener of Devastating Magic, set in an alt-universe where some people developed magical skills. At first they were shunned, but with the war, governments realized their skills could be useful, and they were drafted into military service.

    Our heroes, Elliot Stone and Warren Sullivan, a.k.a. Sully, were men of certain inclinations who met and had a wonderful night together. They parted the next day for service, thinking they wouldn’t see each other again, but to their surprise, they were training together along with other recruits.

    Elliot has the ability to influence people’s feelings through touch but can also secretly dreamwalk. He comes from a wealthier family and so was made captain. He’s a passionate man who likes writing poems, not really someone you would expect to be a soldier, much more an officer.

    Sully is an empath and has the ability to create illusions. A man whose temper easily runs hot, he frequently has to tune out other people’s emotions, or else he would go mad. He suffers from nightmares caused by childhood traumas, something that Elliot helps him with whenever he enters his dreams.

    The premise is built on the romantic idea of meeting your lover in dreams when far apart in real life. Elliot walks into Sully’s dreams, and there, they talk about things they can’t talk about in their waking lives. Their interactions are free-er, without fear of the homophobic society of their time.

    Thing is, Sully doesn’t or refused to remember these times. Elliot keeps his extra ability a secret, or he’d be put to work even in sleep. Dream Sully is more accepting and more honest to himself and his lover, confessing fears and secrets to Elliot. Real world Sully pushes and pulls, confused about his feelings for a man he’s so drawn to after spending only one night together a lifetime ago.

    As a romance, the book delivered a compelling story of forbidden love between two men who constantly put their lives at risk. Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, with precious stolen moments and a swoony HFN that made it so much worth the risk and heartaches.

    As a fantasy, the world-building is adequate enough to establish that it is WWI and that there are people with superpowers governments are using as special forces. Beyond that, it didn’t delve into details like, magic systems, origins, classifications, etc.

    The setting reminded me a bit of the long ago TV series Young Indiana Jones, but this being alt-universe, there were some liberties taken with the historical elements. In truth, I didn’t feel the 1917-ness of it. The writing didn’t provide many historical details that would have made the era come alive. It feels more like they just borrowed WWI military clothes and did something vaguely WWI-ish.

    Also, Elliot and Sully were from Chicago. I thought Americans only joined during WWII. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, this is a fantasy book, so no biggie.

    In terms of storytelling, it was slow going at the start. It got to the point that I had to put the book on hold for a couple of months. I’m glad I gave it a second chance because it hit its stride about time the boys finished training and were deployed in separate countries.

    From here, the plot was mostly about Elliot’s and Sully’s missions, how the war took its toll, and how the two men were reunited again. One of the more interesting threads is the German plot to deploy a nerve gas that turns people into zombies.

    I thought it would be more exciting if the story started with the MCs as established soldiers and focused more on the mission to stop the nerve gas. It would made the story more dynamic and action-oriented. But it’s understandable the book opened with the one night stand and went through the training to establish the connection between Elliot and Sully. Also, I think the consequences of their mission might be connected to the events in the sequel, which I am looking forward to.

    Imperfect Illusions is a story of love that endured nightmares, stigma and war. The pace is slow in the beginning, and the writing glosses over some details. Imperfect it may be, still, it’s an emotional book that grows on you, and you’ll find yourself rooting hard for Elliot and Sully!

    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Dream
    Artist: Boo Seeka
    Album: Between The Head & The Heart

    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Imperfect Illusions. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    IMPERFECT ILLUSIONSKindle | Audiobook

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi or PayPal. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!