Illusion Town is the latest in Ms. Castle’s Harmony series featuring the ancestors of earth residents who became trapped on the parallel world of Harmony. It has all the features I’ve come to expect from the series including an intelligent hero and heroine who respect each other, as well as a funny dust bunny. But the plot, as well as interactions between the hero and heroine, move this above most of the others I’ve read in the series; I truly enjoyed it.
The book opens with a series of emails between E. Coppersmith and “Finder.” E. – or Elias — is a crystal engineer and hired the “Finder” to locate an heirloom. Their emails gradually become friendlier and more personal until Elias invites the Finder for dinner. But on the way to their date Elias gets a call that upsets him. And this is where the plot gets interesting.
As with most of Harmony’s residents, Hannah West – the Finder – has a special psychic ability; she’s a powerful dreamlight talent. When next we see Elias, Hannah is dreamwalking in a motel bedroom while he sleeps. Once awake, neither can remember much of anything that happened from the time Elias walked into Hannah’s shop to the time they woke up, other than they were running from someone.
Hannah discovers the necklace she was wearing the night before – the only thing she has that belonged to her mother – is missing. Equally upsetting, she and Elias discover they’re married in a Marriage of Convenience, which is an easy to terminate form of marriage on Harmony.
Hannah and Elias decide to retrace their steps leading them to many interesting spots in Illusion Town, Harmony’s version of Las Vegas. But in addition to being filled with both upscale and seedy casinos, it sits on top of mysterious ruins known as the Ghost City. The two gradually start recalling events of the past night, and Elias remembers the call he got was to tell him that some Coppersmith workers were trapped in a mine and he needed a powerful dreamlight talent to get them out.
The book is filled with adventure as Hannah and Elias go from the casinos of Illusion Town to the dangerous underground mines to an intriguing lost museum. They face numerous villains, and while some are rather obvious, their motivations are often less clear. While the various puzzles held my interest, it’s Elias and Hannah who make the book.
Throughout, Elias uses his intelligence and skills as an engineer to solve problems. He’s also clever enough to know that in many instances, Hannah, with her dreamlight talents, will have to rescue them. While Hannah had been told by others that she was fragile and her powers were unstable, Elias quickly realizes that’s not true. I truly appreciated that Elias comes to love and respect Hannah because she’s a strong woman.
At first I thought of Hannah as without family, in comparison to Elias’ rich heritage. But we’re gradually introduced to the family she has cobbled together. And of course, there’s Hannah’s dust bunny. Virgil is an excellent addition to the dust bunny world, standing guard over Hannah when needed, knowing who to trust and not to trust. Longtime fans of all of the author’s works will appreciate the doll that Virgil quickly becomes attached to.
While I’ve read all of the previous entries in the series, I believe Illusion Town would work well as a standalone. The author gives just enough of the back history of Harmony to help newcomers, without flooding past readers with too much they already know. As for me, I would love to see more of Elias and Hannah, and hope that the next entry in the Harmony series might give us at least a glimpse of them.