Immortal Illusions
by Ursula Bauer, fantasy (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-832-1


Is that Andy Roddick on the cover wearing a dodgy white wig?

In Immortal Illusions, Ursula Bauer returns to her setting of an alternate Earth where a bunch of immortals work together with their patrons, the Egyptian gods, in what is called the Eternity Covenant to protect mankind from villains bent on conquest, mayhem, and worse. I would strongly suggest that readers new to the series read Immortal Protector first because of the surplus of details in the canon that may be too much to take in during a single sitting.

The plot of Immortal Illusions is closely tied to that in the previous book. The Council of Wardens have yet to retrieve all the stolen magical artifacts that, in the wrong hands, will disrupt time itself. This time, the focus is on the Emerald Tablet, said to contain thirteen tenets that will reveal secrets that would make one even more powerful than the Gods. Or, failing that, death and destruction, as the Tablet is said to be the cause of the destruction of Atlantis. The Council of Wardens, which come off here like a bunch of antiquated dinosaurs led by a nutcase that will find the KKK too benign in their agenda, charge Jack Madden and Raine Spencer to retrieve the latest of the Tablet. Jack has been exiled from the Council due to charges led by the leader of the Council, Kerr, while Raine is the niece of one of the Elder Wardens who will act as a "mystical surrogate" to Jack.

Jack, however, has his own agenda for assisting the Wardens. He actually hates them because they once exiled him for a crime in a manner that he naturally feels is most unfair. Having been stripped of his powers by the Wardens, he has to work with Raine to do his woo-woo stuff. However, he has full intention of manipulating Raine to settle his personal score with Kerr, clear his name, and ascend to godhood. Raine is not going to let her uncle and the other Wardens sacrifice her to Jack without a word, though. She wants to be admitted into the Covenant knighthood of the Chivalric Order in exchange for her aid to Jack.

Immortal Illusions is a disappointing follow-up to the much better Immortal Protector from a technical point because this book starts off with so much information dumping that I feel as if I'm attending a lecture and I'm expected to take down notes. Also not improving the situation are the presence of way too many fragmented sentences both in the narrative and the conversations as well as too many vague or ill-explained concepts and jargons ("mystical surrogate", for example). In other words, the book starts off being very boring as well as too cryptic. I wonder whether I need to memorize every detail in Ms Bauer's canon to understand this story completely.

For example, I find myself sitting through pages after pages of Jack yammering about being wronged by Kerr and being "bound" without being given any explanation as what he was accused of and what being "bound" actually entailed. I suppose I can search through my hard drive and locate my copy of Immortal Protector, from where Jack makes his first appearance, to get a refresher course, but I wonder how a new reader is supposed to deal with this. The reader can be patient and keep reading, hoping that details will be forthcoming, of course, but the story just keeps going with all these allusions and inadequately-explained concepts piling up as one turns the page. That's why I suggested earlier that one should read the previous book before starting with this one.

Add in a Council led by a cartoon dweeb who screams and shouts like he is auditioning for Looney Tunes Idol, a heroine who seems determined to win the approval and love of these cartoon characters at the cost of denying her own heritage, and an instantaneous attraction between her and the hero that seems forced, and I get a story that is a chore to read.

Once the action gets going, things improve slightly. Due to the way the author has set up the first few chapters of this story, however, the improvements are only slight since I am still reeling from all that information dumping that, at the same time, still leaves me in the dark about many things because of the overuse of jargons of unclear meaning to "explain" things. There are still too many annoying fragmented sentences that get on my nerves. I have no problems with Jack, although there are times when he's so annoying because he will speak in cryptic riddle-like allusions to things instead of just telling it like it is, but I have a hard time warming up to the heroine because Raine often comes off like a puppy determined to make an abusive master pat its head where her relationship with the Council is concerned.

All in all, I find that Immortal Illusions requires too much effort to read and offers inadequate payoff in return.

Rating: 54


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