The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

historical-books-2 nadine keels

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Four Silver Stars

The Illusionist's ApprenticeThe Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Master illusionist Harry Houdini has passed, and people think his former apprentice, Wren Lockhart, must hold the key to Houdini’s well-kept secrets. However, Wren is harboring her own secrets concerning her past. When a public illusion by a rival performer goes horribly wrong, Wren gets caught up in a mystery that will threaten all that she hides, and her very life, in The Illusionist’s Apprentice, a novel by author Kristy Cambron.

The setting of the Jazz Age and the last legs of vaudeville, the intrigue, the tenseness of romance, and the waiting depths of emotion all pulled me to keep turning the pages, though not too fast. I wouldn’t necessarily call this story slow, but the pace is certainly measured and heavy. The read is quite somber, morbidly dark in places. And the mystery involves one kind of occurrence I sigh at in books: when a villain eventually just spills all the beans, explaining their grand scheme to their victims or opponents in a detailed speech or two, before it’s all over.

Still, I’m glad I was patient with this story. It’s ultimately redemptive, with some moving and beautiful aspects that I’ve come to expect from this author of one of my all-time favorite novels, The Butterfly and the Violin. I’m sure many other fans of historical fiction, especially ChristFic readers, will enjoy this intricately-woven tale.

 

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A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

historical-books-4

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Four Silver Stars

A Sparrow in TerezinA Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

It was maniacal. To have a culture of the arts in such a hellish place…what sense could it make?

As in the first Hidden Masterpiece novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, author Kristy Cambron gives us a stirring glimpse of World War II in A Sparrow in Terezin, particularly at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Terezin and from the perspective of Kája Makovsky, a young, half-Jewish writer who’s separated from her family when she flees Prague, only to end up later in the disaster of the London Blitz. Kája’s intelligence, compassion, and courage all find places to pierce through the war’s horror, even when any chance for a future, her future, is on the verge of being blacked out.

“Can you tell me about him, about Jesus?… He was a Jew.”
“He was, just like us. And if he were here right now, he’d be suffering. He’d be crying for what we do to each other.”

While the emotionally tumultuous present-day account about newlyweds Sera and William Hanover is well intertwined, the novel’s strength is in Kája’s story, though it took a while before I got a strong sense of a deeper and cohesive purpose running through her thread, when the book’s central theme started rounding out in the second half. There was a little issue with overuse in the book, “embattled” and forms of the verb “melt” appearing quite a few times as well as a number of scenes with Kája in tears. Of course, crying would be more than expected in any heartrending novel like this, but as there are many ways a person can react to fear, grief, relief, etc., I think main characters’ tears have more impact in a novel, especially one with dark themes like war and death, when crying is depicted at the most necessary points, or even slipped in at an effectively understated moment, and not as much in between.

Still, there’s so much to be found here—love, tragedy, romance, faith—and the most compelling takeaway for me is the illustration of how one human being can begin to save the life of another at the moment when he or she says, “I’d like to tell you a story.”

Powerful.

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To fully appreciate A Sparrow in Terezin, you’ll want to read The Butterfly and the Violin, Cambron’s stunning debut novel.

The Butterfly and the Violin

 

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

historical-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Five Gold Stars

The Butterfly and the ViolinThe Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“War is going to change things, isn’t it?”

“Yes. It will.”

“Then I hope it changes me.”

Before reading The Butterfly and the Violin, I knew it had the potential to be a true masterpiece, and I believe it does become one. By the end of the Vienna Philharmonic concert in which Adele Von Bron was meant to honor the leader of the Third Reich with her musical gift, the imagery hooked me. There were minutes when Adele seemed a bit weak to me, in a timid or wispy kind of way, but then, she wouldn’t have ended up in Auschwitz if she was a weakling. I was moved to tears during the climactic moment in which Adele’s strength is fully realized, a scene overflowing with love and purpose, exquisite pain, exquisite beauty. Moments like that don’t come in all literature, those flashes of something infinite, unfathomable, and eternal, and as Adele soars, one can’t help but to soar with her.

“The artist can’t be killed, Adele. The men and women whose hearts have cried in this place–they couldn’t stay away.”

There were some minor hitches in the novel’s style, such as the places in the present day account of Sera James that didn’t quite have the snap they might have, and Adele’s back-to-back breakdowns against her friend Omara that could have had more power if only one breakdown had been used instead of two. Yet, the ultimate profundity and triumph of the story more than make up for the minor details, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an appreciation for the human heart, the human story, and enduring hope.

The God-worship of every life–this was the art of Auschwitz.

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Updates:
I’ve added this book to my all-time Favorites.

Also see my review of the sequel, A Sparrow in Terezin.

A Sparrow in Terezin