The Great Fox Illusion by Justyn Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a really fun book for children (aged 8 – 12), which delves into the world of international stage illusionists.
Thirteen-year-old Felicity (Flick) Lions makes a refreshing protagonist. She’s coming to terms with a horrific car crash in which she lost her leg, and the disappearance of her dad. The former informs her outlook during the book, and the latter drives the plot. She blames the Great Fox – a deceased master illusionist – for her father’s failed magic career and his subsequent disappearance.
The story has its roots in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The once reclusive, now dead, Great Fox has opened up his chamber of secrets for the first time to a group of children who are vying to succeed him. It also has shades of the excellent Now You See Me films.
Flick is on a quest to expose the fact that the Great Fox stole her father’s most amazing trick (the Bell System) and to reclaim it from the Fox’s mansion. To do that, she enters a reality TV show set inside the mansion, where she and her fellow contestants must figure out how certain well-known tricks were performed. She must deal with treachery, prejudice, and greed from her fellow child contestants as well as other (adult) vested interests who also want to get their hands on the Bell System.
The plotting and the pacing is excellent. This book is a page turner right to the end.
Nevertheless, the ending was (for me, as an adult reading the book) disappointing. The build up and the staging had promised much. It had been such a fun journey, so I couldn’t help feeling let down by an end which didn’t really pay off on the earlier setup.
It would be impossible to point to specifics, without giving away spoilers. I’ll simply say that I didn’t think Flick’s personal journey had a satisfying or convincing resolution, in terms of what she set out to achieve by entering the competition. Equally, the behaviour and reactions of the characters in the final chapters didn’t ring true, and the story elements that were used to create an exciting denouement felt contrived.
However, just to repeat, that was an adult’s perspective. I’ve been reading the story to my daughter. She’s maybe a shade too young for the target audience, but she’s really enjoying it. I read ahead to make sure it’s all suitable and it most definitely is. She keeps reading ahead though, too, because she wants to know how it was done. I’m sure Flick would approve 🙂
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