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About The Book

“The perfect sinisterly magical escape…full of longing, desperation, and betrayal.” —Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval trilogy and Once Upon a Broken Heart

Caraval meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this “beguiling” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) young adult fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a magical secret society to enter a potentially deadly competition for the chance to avenge her mother’s death.

Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.

But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.

But they’ve been waiting for her.

The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.

About The Author

Photograph by Margie Fuston

Margie Fuston grew up in the woods of California where she made up fantasy worlds that always involved unicorns. In college, she earned undergraduate degrees in business and literature and a master’s in creative writing. Now she’s back in the woods and spends all her time wrangling a herd of cats and helping her nephews hunt ghosts, pond monsters, and mermaids.

Why We Love It

Cruel Illusions is deliciously dark. I was immediately swept up into the sinister world of The Society of True Magicians and found myself questioning what was real and what was illusion alongside Ava. The competition is dangerous, grim, and a little macabre, yet I dare you to tear your eyes away for even a second.”

—Sarah M., Senior Editor, Cruel Illusions

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 1, 2022)
  • Length: 512 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665902120
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99
  • Lexile ® HL720L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

"The perfect sinisterly magical escape. Cruel Illusions has everything I love in a paranormal: vampires, macabre magic, and a romance to die for, full of longing, desperation, and betrayal."

– Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval trilogy and ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

"In this beguiling examination of good, evil, and myriad in-between tones, Fuston challenges a vengeful teenager’s preconceived notions in uncomfortable ways and centers the importance of family—both chosen and otherwise—via a highly introspective narrative and well-developed queer and racially inclusive cast."

– Publishers Weekly, starred review, 10/24/2022

"This lush, stand-alone paranormal fantasy blends several beloved tropes into a fresh, enchanting tale. There’s a delicious love triangle, gory blood magic, fierce rivalries, and found family...Sure to dazzle those in the mood for something sensuous and sinister."

– Kirkus Reviews, 9/15/2022

"The magic is exciting, the foes are worthy, and the world building is effective and creative, but the soul of this novel is its exploration of family, especially how biological family may fall far short of the potential strength and comfort that a found or chosen family can offer."

– BCCB, 12/1/2022

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