Karina Kantas is a talented author who has dabbled in various genres and has reached a wide variety of audiences through her multiple fiction series, short stories, and flash fiction. Illusional Reality is the first in her young adult romantic fantasy duology and provides a pleasantly alluring introduction to this unique series. While the premise may seem a bit cliché and perhaps even predictable, Kantas has used her creativity to take this common fantasy premise and make it her own.
After a long day working as a marketing executive, imagine getting kicked out of a taxi in an unknown neighborhood, following a strange man named Salco who said you would be killed if you didn’t follow him, then nearly being killed anyway by a couple of strange otherworldly beings known as Senxs. Now imagine waking up from this crazy nightmare only to discover that Tsinia, the fantastical dream world you wake up in, is indeed reality and not only that, but that you are the last living heir to the throne of Tsinia which is on the brink of being overruled by the warlord of Senx, Darthorn. And, to top everything off, in order to create order amidst the chaos and stop your people from becoming eternally enslaved, a peace treaty is believed to be created if you wed Kovon, the son of Darthorn, within a very short window of time. Poor seemingly normal Becky is subjected to this crazy adventure and must do all that she can to save a land she has never known by facing off against a warlord using powers she never believed she possessed, while at the same time, struggling to not fall for a man she never expected to meet and is forbidden to love.
Let us begin by focusing on one of the hardest challenges any author faces when it comes to writing fantasy and science fiction: worldbuilding. There is no doubt that Kantas has succeeded in creating a memorable and unique world filled with equally unique beings and cultures. The world itself is described almost like an elven city found in various fantasy stories and most certainly a world would wish to visit or live in. Other than the imminent threat of doom, the land of Tsinia is beautiful and peaceful. The Tsinians are the main beings Kantas focuses on in Illusional Realty and they make for an enjoyable new race. Along with the elven-like land they reside in, they have the beauty and elegance of elves (without the pointy ears), yet they also have unique abilities that almost resemble superpowers (very similar to the X-Men).
One of the main highlights, as well as surprises, about the Tsinians is the way they speak. Rather than speaking with slang, abbreviations, lingo, etc., they speak very properly and eloquently. Imagine how people must have spoken in the 1700s or 1800s in high end society and that is more or less how Tsinians speak. It is most certainly surprising to find this in a young adult book; however, it is refreshing to read and perhaps even the young readers of today can, hopefully, pick up on this speech so they can stop speaking in text lingo.
Another challenge authors face, especially when they have quite a few characters within a shorter story as well as a shorter series, is giving each of their characters his or her own unique personality. Once again, Kantas has succeeded in giving her many characters just that. While some could have perhaps been developed a bit more, readers will be able to differentiate each of the characters by how he or she acts and what he or she does. With so many characters introduced, we shall focus on the main character: Becky on Earth/ Thya in Tsinia. She is most certainly a powerhouse woman and does not take crap from anyone, making for an excellent role model figure for the younger female readers. What is definitely refreshing about Becky/ Thya is how she reacts to discovering that she is a princess. It is on par with Mia from The Princess Diaries where she grudgingly accepts the fact that she is a princess, but in all honesty, truly does not want to be and Kantas continues to surprise her readers with Becky/ Thya’s decision as the story continues. Perhaps the only thing readers may have difficulty following are the names of the characters. Kantas is to be commended for all of the original names she created for her fantasy beings; however, it can become a bit tricky to follow who some of the characters are at times.
The story itself is alluring, though with a concept that has been used time and time again within the fantasy genre, there are a few clichés readers will stumble upon. However, readers should not allow this to stop them from reading Illusional Realty. The “forbidden love” aspect of the story will seem both familiar and different for Kantas added additional surprises into the mix that readers will not expect. The feud between light and dark (Becky/ Thya and Darthorn/ Kovon) could have been expanded upon a bit more, but what is revealed to the readers is enjoyable and has its own unexpected twists as well. The talented Kantas has created an alluring twist on a familiar concept with Illusional Realty. She has taken fantasy elements and put enticing new twists onto cliché plots. While it would have been wonderful to read even more about the history and culture behind this new fantasy world, readers will enjoy the new fantastical land of Tsinia and will love reading the eloquent dialog of the Tsinians. Readers will praise Becky/ Thya’s powerhouse character traits and will discover all of the other characters’ unique powers and personalities. Making for a quick read, readers will most certainly wish to pick up the second and final book in Kantas’ duology, The Quest, as soon as they have reached the last page to find out what happens next.