Author: Elizabeth Hand
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Published Date: May 13, 2010
Price: Amazon ($11.87)
Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other's first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school's production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together. This masterful short novel, winner of the World Fantasy Award, is magic on paper.
Elizabeth Hand, through her beautiful language, creates an intricate and alluring painting, with fantasy, magic, and love coloring it. Hand creates depth and meaning through very little words, the narration with Maddy reverberates with the passion she feels for Rogan and for theater.
Maddy lives in a closeted family, in which she was descended from a family of theater actresses. A forbidden love arises between Rogan and Maddy, who grow together and through their relationship and their school play, Twelfth Night, Maddy understands what glamour is and what talent is.
The love between Rogan and Maddy, for me personally, is a storm hidden under the twinkling lights of the magical theater they view together in the attic. The sincerity of their love and the passion isn’t expressed through wasted pages of Maddy feeling sad and depressed when Rogan flits around (cough cough, Twilight and other teenage romance novels). The characters were also well developed, Rogan, Maddy, and even Aunt Kate. Maddy, who loves Rogan and understands the limit of her talent, Rogan, the talented and wild boy who deeply cares for Maddy.
I personally loved Maddy’s journey to discover what talent and glamour is. For me, it is the biggest question I’ve been facing ever since I entered high school, envious of my genius friends in math or English, or the violin prodigies and virtuosos. Can glamour be learned? Can you achieve an equal level to one who has talent? That’s what Maddy hopes to find out not only through her acting in Twelfth Night, but also with her relation with Rogan.
The ending left a big hole. I loved the ending section, but the years that Maddy and the reader go through are squished into a paragraph. There was a lot of places to develop in Maddy’s realization of her Aunt Kate’s lesson about ‘glamour’ and her undying love with Rogan.
The cover's mysterious fog hiding both Rogan and Maddy was well done, portraying the forbidden part of their relationship. Also, the solitary figures in the dreary setting created a nice tone of their closeness and sincerity in their love.
Illyira is a nice short and quick read, a little out of the ordinary with the relationship and how Hand pursues it. Most teen books usually spend at least half the book describing how they fall in love, but Hand starts right from it and goes with the action. I also really loved how Hand balances both Maddy's journey with Rogan and her search for a spotlight. There were some holes that were too big and untied strings left at the end, which sometimes made me want to skim through the book.