Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Have you ever read a book and the desire to rip it to shreds grows the more you think about it? You want to nitpick every error, every grammatical mistake, every character inconsistency until there is nothing left but a neatly shredded hamster home of literature on the ground. I've already written a concise review of this book on Goodreads but I'm not quite ready to leave this book alone and hopefully, I'm going to explore this in a little bit more depth.

Illusions of Fate was published in September, 2014.  This is relevant because the book it seems to rip off was published in 1986 and the subsequent animated movie was released in 2004. Now it has been years since I read the book since it is a children's book but I absolutely adore the movie. The director is one of the best story tellers of all time and when I have children, they will be watching Studio Ghibli instead of Disney.

I am, of course, talking about Howl's Moving Castle.

It's my goal to present this review as a detailed analysis and not a rage filled rant but this honestly makes me so mad. I can always understand if it is one thing that is similar or the main themes resemble each other but there was a lot in this book that was excessively close to Howl's

But first, let's start with a summary and move on from there. 

Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare in this lush, romantic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White.
“I did my best to keep you from crossing paths with this world. And I shall do my best to protect you now that you have.” 
Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him. 
Kiersten White captured readers’ hearts with her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy and its effortless mix of magic and real-world teenage humor. She returns to that winning combination of wit, charm, and enchantment in Illusions of Fate, a sparkling and romantic new novel perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, The Madman’s Daughter, and Libba Bray.

It's a cute idea and it is executed with an appropriate amount of fluff. Jessamin is likable enough and is clever. She likes to make her own way in the world and stay on the fringes of the society that she loathes. She is dragged into the magical world by Finn and she doesn't really want to be there. 

Their love story is cute. Finn wants to protect her and Jessamin is not the type to be protected. Her mother was seduced by an Albion man and she doesn't want to suffer the same fate but gets reeled in by his charm.

Ok...I can't hold this in any longer. I'm getting mad.

Illusions of Fate is a cheap disgusting rip off of Howl's Moving Castle. This was not accidental in any way as the author has claimed this book is a cross between Howl's and Pride and PrejudiceLink to Interview

This isn't a cross. This isn't a creative new blend. It is taking ideas that have already been fleshed out and explored in not one, but two different mediums and passing them off as your own.

Jessamin is an over simplified Sophie. Sophie is a strong young woman who works in her family's hat shop in honor of her father and to support her vapid social climbing mother. She recognizes herself as plain, especially when compared to her flamboyant relatives and is okay with that. Jessamin works to support herself and her education but she is (obviously) beautiful and unique and exotic. She's always been pretty and always will be. Sophie gets turned into an old lady and has to come up with a way to disguise herself. Jessamin gets stalked by a man because he thinks that she is desirable. 

Sir Bird is a mix of Turnip Head and Hime. And where Turnip Head is charming and Hime is adorable, Sir Bird is rather stagnant. Sure, he protects her from the other birds but he has no personality of his own. Where Hime is needy, Sir Bird just sits and watches. He can take care of himself and frequently gets forgotten. Sir Bird is loyal like Turnip Head but, besides being a book, he isn't helpful.

Finn as Howl. Once again, we see a watered down version of a fantastic character. Finn dyes his hair blonde, as does Howl, but he does it to make him look charming. Howl does it because he is intensely and deeply vain and has the most spectacular meltdown in the world when Sophie messes up his hair potions. He is a huge diva. Finn immediately falls in love with Jessamin where Howl has to gradually learn to let someone else into his life and not try to push them away. Howl has to grow to be brave and take action where Finn is already in the process of trying to prevent a war and is all noble and sacrificial from the beginning. He doesn't grow and he doesn't learn.

There's the house that has doors into different worlds where you can travel space without leaving your living room. 

There's the bird motif (even on the cover) that is extremely similar to Howl's.

This book seriously puts me into a massive rage. I want to throw my computer. I want to scream. I want to tell everybody in the world to not buy this book and just read or watch the original. These characters have no depth in comparison to the wonderful world of Howl's. Yes, I adore the movie and I'm a bit of a fangirl when it comes down to it but this is ridiculous.

This book is not a creative re-imagining of a story set in a different place and time where the characters are presented in new ways. This is not like taking Cinderella and setting it in modern Tokyo. This book is like taking Harry Potter, setting it in the USA and changing the names of the characters.

I've lost all respect for this author as soon as she said that she wanted to make it like Howl's. That's fine. But don't sell it as your own idea. Say it is a different take on the book instead of hoping that nobody notices. Because I noticed. And I'm pissed.

Don't buy this book. Seriously. Just watch the movie or read the book. I can't emphasize this enough.


  1. I think I'd be just as mad if I had read(it is a book right?) or seen Howl's Moving Castle. The problem isn't using it as inspiration, the problem is not mentioning it in the blurb. Do you think this could have also been a publishers fault? Don't they have to avoid things like this?

    1. It's a movie and a book. The book is for middle grade kids but I saw the movie first when I was 16 and loved it and still love it. I don't mind books being used as inspiration (though this was too close for just inspiration) but it has to be credited. The publisher, editor, and author are at fault here. This just isn't honest in my opinion.

  2. I can totally understand your rage! Like a certain very popular trilogy that has so many things the same with a much older japanese novel to be a coincidence. And this japanese novel is one of my favourite books. So, if this is a rip off of Howl's Moving Castle I can understand your anger, I would be too if I read it.
    And by the way, Howl's Moving Castle is amazing (everything Gibli does is amazing in fact).

    Aeriko @

    1. Battle Royale right? I've heard it's awesome.

      I wouldn't be so mad if the author said in the blurb that it was influenced by Howl's but it's like she was trying to be sneaky and get it past everyone. It comes off as dishonest in a lot of ways.

      And YAASSSSSS! I love Ghibli. So much. My husband-to-be is also a big fan so we watch them together and marvel at the colors <3

  3. I can't agree more! I liked Sophie I MEAN JESSAMIN at the beginning so I played along and let all the comparisons slide away from my head but then it came to a point where I couldn't ignore it. When I read the Acknowledgements where Howl's is said to be an inspiration, I couldn't help thinking "inspiration or template?" I guess there's no difference anymore :(

    1. It got so frustrating! I thought I was loading my mind. I'm glad I'm not the only one haha. You're right, inspiration is not a strong enough word for this.

      Thank you for commenting!