Just from the synopsis of Clover Autrey’s Highland Illusion, not much is explained about the actual story. On top of the vague description, the sweaty rugged man on the cover who stares at any reader screams “raunchy novel.” However, as every reader and non-reader knows: never judge a book by its cover and the seventh installment of Autrey’s Highland Sorcery series is not what it appears.
Grotesque creatures have traveled through time and humanity is on the brink of extinction. With the hope that the peace treaty made between vampires and humans still holds true, one human is sent to convince the largest vampire colony to join with the humans to fight these creatures before they destroy everyone. However, the human sent to confront the vampires is not a normal human: Lance Sheppard is a human with the ability to create magical illusions. After a traumatic past and a vow to never use his magic to harm, Lance is put in a position where he must unleash his powers to convince the head of the vampire colony to cooperate with the humans. If only it weren’t for the beautiful female vampire that keeps sidetracking him…
Highland Illusion contains so much, yet at the same time, not as much as it should. It is a story with so much potential and, with a bit more detail and a larger page count, a story that could easily stand on its own. However, upon learning it is part of a series of stories, a reader can see that there is more to, at least, part of the story and, for any reader being first introduced to the Highland Sorcery series through this story, it should be judged fairly and accordingly.
The story itself is rather intriguing and, even with six other books before this one, it is written in a way where the reader can catch up relatively quickly on current events happening within the series as a whole. Autrey’s writing style is refreshing for she jumps right to the point of her story, beginning with the action the synopsis promised rather than spending several chapters just setting up for what is to come. Yet another wonderful attribute of Autrey’s style is the quick pace. She keeps the story moving and readers will find themselves finishing the book relatively quickly. Along with this quick pace being wonderful, it is also a bit of a let-down for those readers who wish to take their time and learn more about what is happening outside of the relationship between the main two characters, Lance and Celestine.
A wonderful surprise that may catch readers off guard is the fact that Highland Illusion is not a steamy, raunchy romance novel, but rather an apocalyptic romance story. For readers looking for an actual story with romance rather than constant sensual love-making scenes, readers will find it in Autrey’s story. Dystopian novels have always been popular and have been increasing in number over the last few years and Autrey’s story offers two popular categories that many readers, especially female readers, will be instantly drawn to: paranormal romance and an apocalyptic setting.
As a stand-alone novel, it does a fairly good job at telling a story and keeping its audience intrigued, and yet, as aforementioned, there is more the story could have covered. For starters, readers know and even witness Lance using his magical abilities of illusion. Autrey explains right away that Lance was unsure of where the magic came from from within him; however, how did he acquire this magic? Was it genetic? Was he cursed? Did it just appear one day? With Lance’s traumatic past explained, one would think they could learn a little bit of where he acquired this magic. Perhaps while learning about this, readers could also learn more about the vampire Celestine. Certain traits are revealed about her that one would not believe could be found in a vampire, but her backstory is not really explained. Why not learn more about the two main characters readers follow throughout three-fourths of the story.
Autrey could have also branched out a little bit more to cover other parts of the story outside of Lance and Celestine’s blossoming relationship. What are the creatures? It is mentioned that they traveled through time and have nearly forced the human race to extinction, but where did they come from? What do they really look like? Hardly any details are given about them and it can be tricky for the imagination to conjure up an image. Upon reading the synopsis of Highland Shapeshifter (book three) and Highland Moon Sifter (book four), there is a mention of creatures attacking and creatures being created, but unless one has read those books first, readers will be confused. What about the small band of fighting humans briefly mentioned in a few of the chapters? Dex, Ethan, Blue, and a few other humans are mentioned, but their role is incredibly small. Granted, Ethan seems to play a large role in the next book, Highland Soldier, but there is not much of an introduction to his character in Highland Illusion.
As a whole, Highland Illusion makes for good entertainment. It is a quick read and an easy way to escape from a mundane or stressful work day, readers able to tackle a few pages or chapters on a half hour lunch or a fifteen minute break. It will be a story that will make readers want to read the rest of the series or leave readers with a satisfied one-time read. With strengths in storytelling and keeping the pace moving quickly, there are, unfortunately, weaknesses including not enough detail and a lack of elements that should have been explained. Also, with self-publishing, writers need to be careful when editing one’s work. Revising simple grammatical errors scattered throughout the story will help clean up the final draft and will allow more enjoyment for readers who love to get lost within it. Autrey’s story is not what it appears at first glance. As a stand-alone, Highland Illusion is a quick, entertaining, and intriguing read. As part of the Highland Sorcery series, it is more than likely even more enjoyable.