A magician struggling to understand her own past gets drawn into a dangerous plot involving her long-absent mother.
In the first installment of a promised trilogy, Janeway introduces Valentine Hill, a prickly illusionist with major mother issues. Forced to accompany her mother, Elizabeth, on a parade of cons throughout her childhood, Valentine doesn’t even know her own birthday, let alone anything about her absent father. A stickler for rules—she never lies, swears or hits people—Valentine performs alongside Eddie the Wiz as “The Great Valentina” in Las Vegas until she’s approached by a wealthy California man promising information about her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in nine years. Packing up her literal bag of tricks, Valentine heads to San Francisco, where she’s soon attacked by a goon named Dwayne and detained by the SFPD and the FBI, both of whom are on Elizabeth’s trail. Despite seemingly genuine efforts by the people she encounters to lend a helping hand, Valentine constantly rebuffs all kind advances, underscoring not that she’s determined to make her own way in life but that she’s simply an unpleasant person. A passing friendship with FBI Agent Eugenia “Phil” Philips provides a glimmer of hope on the social front, but it’s soon snuffed out. Janeway clutters the dialogue with excessive exposition and clunky phrasing, making even the simplest interactions come off as overwritten.
The most engaging elements of the plot center on Valentine’s actual magic shows, but these are few and far between; no amount of rabbits appearing out of top hats can salvage this exhausting tale.