Cruel Illusions Readalong: Day 1!

Gorgeous photo by @myfriendsarefiction!

Hi Fairies!

Happy Monday and welcome to day 1 of our readalong of Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston. I’m so excited to be reading this one with you, I hope you all love it!

Before we start, how are you all doing? I hope you had a wonderful weekend and got some reading and relaxing done.

Since today is day 1, we’ll be reading from the beginning to the end of Chapter 6. Get comfy and let’s get started!

When you’ve finished today’s section, catch up with me in the comments down below so we can discuss the beginning of the book. Happy reading!

Please be warned, the following section will include spoilers for Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston from the beginning to Chapter 6. Please only read on if you have finished this section!


Ava is living in a foster home after her parents died with her younger brother, foster brother and Deb, her foster parent. Parker seems to be fitting in with Jacob and Deb really well and Ava seems a little sad about it. Ava ends her night by heading out into the dark, wooden stake at the ready, vampires are real and one of them killed her mother. Dun dun dunnnn!

During her explorations, she stumbles into a magic show. She’s enthralled, I am too! When a new green haired magician comes on stage, Ava finds herself raising her hand to be a volunteer and ends up on stage with the handsome magician. She thinks it’s all sleight of hand, like the magic she performs, but suddenly it seems impossible. She returns to her seat and decides she can’t stay any longer.

Back outside, she performs her own sleight of hand coin trick again to settle her nerves but it doesn’t work like it usually does. It’s like she has actual magic that even she doesn’t understand.

The green-haired boy is outside, and caught it all. When she tries to leave, he calls her name… but she never gave it to him. Oh this is getting spooky! His name is Xander. He tells her his show is more than just a show and tells her to come back tomorrow.

On her way home, lost in her thoughts, she bumps into another male. He saw the trick too… And tells her not to come back here. What has she walked into? No level of research leads her to any kind of epiphany or explanation of the magic Xander seems capable of.

The next morning, Ava feels left out all over again when she finds out Parker has dropped their birthday tradition and Deb is hosting a birthday party for him. Can’t blame him though, I really feel for Ava but it sounds like Parker’s birthday tradition was more for her than it was for him. He asks if she’ll perform for his friends though, and she says yes. 

That evening, Ava returns to the magic show, with her friend Stacie this time. Stacie, thinking she’s doing Ava a favour, sees Ava watching Xander and fakes that she has to leave. Ava tells Xander she’s leaving, but instead sneaks in and gives herself an inside look at the magic on stage. And it’s exactly that, magic, no illusions, no flowers being dropped or quick changes but actual magic emanating from the twins on stage.

In her spying, Ava overhears Xander and someone else talking about her. She’s saying they need Ava, it’s their only move… this is suspicious. Unfortunately, at the worst possible time Ava puts too much pressure on the boxes in front of her and tumbles out, landing in front of the two. They tell her magic is real, they feed off the energy of the crowd. They want her to join their troupe as an apprentice… and it turns out they’re also vampire hunters. Original vampires were magicians gone bad. The magic and being part of the troupe gives Xander immortality. Ava can only get the wristband when another magician dies though, every other troupe will take on an apprentice and the apprentices will fight for the chance of obtaining a wristband. Ava agrees on the condition that Xander performs at Parker’s birthday party. 

In an odd turn of events, Ava bumps into the other person who commented on her magic trick last night and he’s not alone. Willow is Roman’s apprentice, they go for ice cream and Willow and Ava agree they’ll be friends for now, despite also being competitors. 

Would you have agreed to join Xanders troupe?
Do you think it’s a good idea for Willow and Ava to be friends?
Any theories on what’s going to happen?

What an interesting start!

Hope you’re enjoying the book so far! See you tomorrow for day two.


26 thoughts on “Cruel Illusions Readalong: Day 1!

  1. When I saw that this book was Caraval meets Buffy, I wasn’t expecting there to be characters named for Buffy characters! Also…the subtle Twilight reference in there made me cringe a little bit. So far, seems like an interesting concept and I’m intrigued to see where it goes.

  2. Very good so far and an easy read.
    I have so many questions…
    Who killed her parents? I feel like the two are connected.
    Was it her they were after rather than them? Because she has a lot of power?
    It’s weird Roman is by himself as her new troupe have made a big deal about the 6 of them being split up if they don’t have an extra member.
    I feel like there will be a love triangle between the two main guys.
    I feel that the Willow friendship will end badly with them being competition etc

    Looking forward to the next chapters

  3. Hey everyone!
    Love it the book so far. It’s so awesome I can’t stop reading.
    I probably would have agreed to join the troupe if I was Ava. It seems like the change and found family she needs in life.
    I don’t know about them being friends. I don’t want them to hurt each other if this is how the game goes.
    I have a theory that aligns with Harley1490. I think that Roman gets to be by himself because he wins every year or at least brings an apprentice every year since they only get disbanded if you bring someone. Also maybe something tragic happened with the rest of his troupe.
    Agh can’t wait to read more!

  4. I mean, this is all a terrible idea, but without Ava’s terrible instincts, we wouldn’t have a story. Roman’s story has to be linked to vampires too, maybe he’s one and that’s why his troupe consists only of one person (plus apprentice Willow). After all, we need to have a vampire who doesn’t suck (heh) to give us *perspective*.
    As for Willow, I believe she will be a lot more ruthless than she’s letting on, but that Ava’s instincts will prove correct on this, and she’ll be decent in the end. I’m more interested in Aristelle, though. So far, she’s the one I’d want watching my back. I hope she and Ava end up having that kind of friendship dynamic where Aristelle is constantly annoyed but can’t help but always get Ava out of trouble. That’s always entertaining.

  5. I really enjoyed the read so far! Practically devoured those first few chapters. I kind of think maybe her dad was a vampire for the fact it says he got stabbed in the chest multiple times. I wonder if the vamps aren’t as bad as initially thought. Which also makes me think Roman could be a vampire in disguise which will lead to her having to choose between the two male love interests. Can’t wait to read more!

    1. Awww, that actually would’ve been better than the actual thing! Love that theory

  6. I love the concept but I have a really hard time liking Ava… I get that she’s got a sad past and all, but yeah… she’s so “emo dark” and fixated on things (like the movie night and the usual plan for her brother’s birthday) that it makes it really hard for me to like her.
    But the plot is really great so far, I love the circus/magician stuff. I was afraid the mix of magic tricks/vampires would be weird, but it’s somehow really nicely put together.

    Can’t wait to see where it goes !

    1. Right? Like, her foster mom seems so nice, she’s really trying to be good to Ava.

  7. As usual, I went on this book blind. I’m surprised with the Buffy references and a carnival.
    – I can’t decide yet whether Ava is a likeable character or not.
    – I’m sensing a Xander-Ava-Roman love triangle here haha. I hope not.
    – I’m guessing Ava will emerge as the winner of the competition even her very limited time to practice with her sttong power.
    – And Roman is somehow connected to Sarah.
    – Also, I think Ava’s father may not really be dead.

  8. I feel like I should preface this by saying I did not know what I was getting into. (I am not great at reading synopsis’s and often go in blind.) I am really enjoying this book so far. I like all of the different threads interwoven and I am curious how everything will be connected.

    1. I think so. Ava needs connection so deeply and often we will do anything to feel connected to others that are like us. The troupe has a way of bringing her back to her childhood that was robbed from her.

    2. I don’t think friends are bad however, I would not trust anyone right now. Everything is to new and Ava is to naive to the world around her.

    3. I think we will learn more about the troupes and how Ava’s mom was connected to them and the competitions. There will be a betrayal but from who I am unsure.

  9. That was such an exciting first 6 chapters, I hope the rest is just as thrilling. In Ava’s place, I don’t think I would have so much more to lose so I would join it, but as myself I probably would have had more questions first before I jump into anything. Especially with how Xander’s troupe LOVE withholding information, which is an extreme red flag.

    I think it’s good that Ava become friends with Willow just so she gets another perspective on the whole world of vampire hunters. It’s not really wise to just believe everything that Xander and Aristelle are saying.

    Roman is obvs going to be a love interest? I think she’s going to find out that Xander is hiding a lot of things, and that they don’t have her best interest at heart. Everyone’s watching out for their own self-interest and Roman is hinting that Ava’s instinct for the opposite won’t necessarily play to her advantage.

  10. I’m probably biased from the gorgeous FL cover but I’m 100% team Roman so far.
    Ngl Ava did come off as a bit of a pick me girl to me so i hope that changes as we progress!

    She definitely should be friends with Willow, Ava needs more friends!

    Her parents’ murders are 100% connected to each other and definitely something to do with Ava.

    Also, where is her mum’s pink box with her immortality bracelet? ?

  11. I’m chuckling to myself whenever there’s a vampire reference I recognize whether it’s references to a show/movie she’s seen or the fact that “Xander” & “Willow” are trying to be her friends (while he called her Buffy, at that) or that he referred to vampires as “bloodsuckers” & “leeches” in a very Jacob (Twilight) way… which happens to be the name of her foster-whatever’s son. There’s also so much going on with her folks, their previous acts, & their deaths. I’m curious if she’ll run into any of her mom’s troupe members at the competition (she’s clearly been around since the days of Houdini, at least).
    Daily Q&A:
    1.) Would you have agreed to join Xanders troupe?
    2.) Do you think it’s a good idea for Willow and Ava to be friends?
    3.) Any theories on what’s going to happen?
    1.) Probably.
    2.) I think it might be a bit of Willow’s doing which makes me suspicious, but for Ava’s sake, I hope so (despite them competing for the same opening).
    3.) They made it sound like, if she doesn’t make it this year, they can train her for another year & try again. At the same time, this Sarah girl “got hurt & left,” so I’m thinking there’s still a bit more to all this. Roman’s warning also leans that way. I’m thinking someone at the competition will recognize her be it from her mom, dad, butterfly video, or whatever.

  12. I’m not sure I could leave behind my younger brother in a situation like that just to have a chance (especially with so little training and time) at becoming a vampire hunter in Xander’s troupe. I’m totally down for this Ava and Willow friendship though. I’m hoping it turns into some sort of alliance and maybe another hunter will die during the competition opening up a second spot.

    My predictions:
    1. Are we sure her dad is dead? I hate to raise this possibility, but could he have become a vampire and is the one who was hunting their family?
    2. I also think Ava’s going to end up running into her mom’s old troupe at some point! I bet her mom was part of one of these vampire hunter troupes and I can’t wait to see what information is revealed when/if she meets them.

  13. This book so far has been such a fun and interesting read! Lately, I’ve been finding it difficult to find books that hold my interest but this one definitely is! I have so many questions and theories for whats happening, but I think Ava’s mum was on the run in order to protect her family, particularly because Ava showed magic. I can’t wait to find out if I’m right or wrong about this!

  14. Oh I already have so many suspicions and questions.

    Like how did Xavier know her name I got this feeling that this is all connected with her parents and that they know more about her that they are letting us know yet

    I like the thories about the father being a vampire oh I am so curious as to what kind of trouble the parents got into thst they had to hide themselves and couldnt use magic

    Would I join the troupe if I was Ava probably I mean it could be hard leaving the brother behaind that for me would be super hard but I would want to be around people that are more like me too

    I hope the Willow friendship will be a good one and not turn badly but will see

  15. 1. I think I would have if I’d been in a similar situation. It seems very constant and not a lot is happening. I think I would have joined to have more excitement and variety in my life.
    2. I think it will be insightful for them to be friends. I hope it won’t turn into a betrayal of that friendship, although I do wonder how it will end if only one of them can win and will remember.
    3. I think her friend is a vampire herself, that’s why she can compel them to do what she want. Her father may also be a vampire himself. I also think that the “boss” of the society is the person after her mother and who her mother was hiding from. I think that will be having problems when she has joined the competition. I believe the magic they have is distinct to the person and/or family so she will be recognized.

    I very much enjoyed the first part. I love the urban fantasy setting the book has and am very much intruiged by the magic. I can’t wait to see the characters grow and see the story progress!

  16. Wow a great start. However I have not warmed to ava jet. The way she treats her Foster mom is just not nice and I get it it’s been hard. But also how she is refusing to see that her brother wants to have a normal life/ family seems very immature. I get it she went through foster system/had bad experiences however she seems extremely ungrateful at times and envious of her brother….

  17. 1) Me as myself? I think I’d had asked to think about it for a day, but then I’m not sure. Me as Ava? I’m surprised she even let them get any explanation at all out before volunteering. It’s *exactly* what she’s been looking for for years.

    2) If there can only be one winner? No. That’s trauma waiting to happen. Also why I don’t like these Hunger Games-esque stories, because it makes it hard to care about any of the side characters, no matter how hard the author tries to draw me in.

    3) Ava’s gonna go win this tournament, I guess. I hope that’s not the whole book. Can we just assume she wins and a lot of good people who could have been her friends or associates die and move on please?

    It sounds like I’m really hating this book, but it’s more this specific plot. I actually am really enjoying the book so far haha. We’ll see if that lasts, with where it’s going…

  18. After starting Cruel illusions (which I keep accidentally calling Cruel intentions) & being a bit “Ummm what?” about the whole vampires are real, they were public knowledge for a bit then disappeared again & now a lot of people think it was a hoax thing… I then did a bit of research and discovered that this book is set in the same world as the authors earlier novel “Vampires, hearts and other dead things” and now I wish I had read that book first in order to better understand the world building. I will probably read it eventually.

    I was also a little confused at first as to when this story was set. There are references to 80s films The Neverending story and The Lost boys. A film from 2007 and The Andy Griffith show from the 1960s but Stacie has a mobile phone and it’s definitely at least 2007 so I’ve decided it is modern day ish and stopped trying to work it out.

    I was also thrown off by the mothers photo with Houdini but now that we know that the magicians are immortal I think that just confirms that Ava’s mother was an immortal magician. I am still confused as to why Ava never questioned a photo of her mother with a man who died in 1926?

    I think Ava has rushed into joining Xander’s group but spontaneous new friendships happen a lot when you are younger. I do not trust any one.

    I’m not convinced that Xander was telling the truth when he said he’s been 17 for only 4 years.

    I don’t dislike Xander but he is very showy, confident and smug. Also he keeps holding back info. So I don’t trust that he has revealed his full motivation as yet. As a love interest ge’s just not my kind of boy. I do like green though.

    I think Stacie has some kind of power of persuasion.

    I maybe trust Roman more than anyone else… but probably because he’s a negative, loner, grump ie realist. Also because he warned Ava not to come back which sounds like sound advice.

    I think Roman is the love interest or at least should be.

    I think Ava’s dad was a vampire… not sure if he was pretending to be a magician or not. If pretending maybe the mother killed him?

    Clearly the mother was a Magician/hunter & I guess the parents ran away to be together. Maybe Ava has inherited powers from both sides and so everyone will be after her?

    Going to the competition will likely bring Ava to the attention of whoever was hunting her family and the killers of one or both of her parents.

    I also think it very likely that at least one person in this story will be a vampire disguised as a magician/hunter.

  19. I’m loving this book so far. The characters really draw me in and I can’t wait to see where this is going. I would absolutely join the troupe. I am just as curious and would not be able to say no. I think Willow and Ava’s friendship is a tragedy in the making. Ava will have to choose her friend or her goals of winning, but I think her friend will sacrifice herself for Ava not having to choose.

  20. Once again, I’m behind in a readalong.

    So far, I don’t know what I think about this book. Ava is frustrating me for some reason and I’m not sure i’m in the right mood for it. I’ll keep going for now though because the concept is intriguing and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

    I don’t trust Xander and friends so far. I feel like they have more sinister secrets they’re hiding and won’t be surprised if some sort of betrayal happens later. I also think Roman has some very specific history with the troupe, which is why he dislikes them.

  21. I really like the idea, but as someone else mentioned, the main character is very hard to like. She’s just a bit too dark and edgy, and just overall emo, for my tastes. I’d probably have liked her better if the book came out whilst I was an emo kid myself.

  22. Just started the book last night.
    The first part of the book was good, in introduced us to the world and the background story, and now we can dive into the competition Ava’s going to face. And see what she is going to take on. The parents death seemed to be interesting.

  23. I’m a little bit late but I started the book yesterday and Ilike the first past of the book so far. The characters really draw me in and I can’t wait to see where this is going.

  24. Better late than never! I started reading last night and just couldn’t put the book down.
    In fact, I would have made the same choices as Ava. Out of curiosity, I would have joined Xander’s group. Willow made a very nice impression as well.

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