Illusionary is full of fanfic tropes: fake marriage, bed sharing, enemies to friends to lovers, childhood friends, iconic besties, and pirates. I loved Incendiary but I wasn’t prepared to love Illusionary even more.
Renata and Castian continue their search for Dez, the lost prince of Puerto Leon, by posing as a married couple and arguing in public. But when Dez leaves Cas a note telling them to seize their search, the pair decide to move forward with their plan to find the knife of memory.
Leo, acting on the orders of Lady Nuria, finds them and joins them on their adventure. But King Fernando isn’t as fooled as everyone believes and sends an assassin after his son. Meanwhile, Dez has a plan brewing; and it does not involve reuniting with his older brother.
Together Ren and Cas will have to charm an assassin, confront old loves, befriend pirates, grow their powers, and navigate their feelings for each other if they wish to save the Kingdom of Puerto Leons.
I loved Incendiary because of Ren. Ren follows her heart, and her heart says murder! But in Incendiary, Ren grapples with her choice to leave the Whispers and trust Castian wholeheartedly. But that’s not the reason why I loved this novel even more than the previous one.
Illusionary is all about the characters. Leo, Ren’s bestie turned spy, joins Cas and Ren on the hunt for the mystical knife of memory. Then we’re introduced to a new character Leyre who was sent to assassinate Cas but decides to join their gang instead.
They become fast friends, and a majority of their scenes are spent acting like clowns and teasing each other. Their dynamic was entertaining and brought relief to the heavier parts of the story.
Additionally, since everyone becomes fast friends, it becomes obvious that Ren and Castian have feelings for each other, and Leo and Ley love to remind them of it. In the previous novel, Ren reluctantly trusts Cas because she remembers he freed her from the palace. They take things slow.
“I hate you.” The words froth at my lips like venom.
The cruel, violent prince I know is back. His blue-green eyes dark and cold, his lip a snarl. I hate you more.”
— Zoraida Cordova Illusionary
Cas and Ren’s fights are so petty and dumb I can’t help but love them more for it. In this novel, they both grow together, lean on each other, and love.
Let’s not forget the messy drama.
I was very eager to see the confrontation between Ren and Dez, and I was not disappointed. For running off and evading them, Ren punches Dez in the face. Later Dez laments losing Ren, but I think we all know Dez lost Ren when he chose not to return to her.
I did not have much faith that I would enjoy the conclusion of this story just because the elements Cordova wove together and the consequences of bringing King Fernando to his knees did not give me much hope.
I am happy to report that I was wrong. The ending was awesome, and I loved that the solution to Ren and Cas’s problem was not to take the throne but instead to run away with pirates. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending for these idiots.
Also, both of these novels are through Ren’s POV, and it’s pretty strong. I felt it was easy to read Castian and his emotions so clearly which is a testament to Cordova’s writing.
As stated this novel relied more on the characters than worldbuilding which left a lot of room for iconic side characters such as Lady Nuria and Leyre! Lady Nuria’s not a big character in either of these books, but she is a lady with style, and when she charges into battle, she does so with lipstick on.
While Leyre’s a trained assassin and a bastard, she’s also witty and not afraid of a challenge. She also happens to be the best treasure finder in the entire kingdom! Leyre’s character is fascinating, and I want to know more about her.
If you’re up for a fantasy duology that will consume your thoughts, an arrogant prince, his mean childhood bestie, a chaotic gay (Leo obvio!), pirates, a soft assassin, and a slow burn romance, try the Incendiary novels!
Until next time I’ll be dreaming of my new ship, Ren and Cas,
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