[Edit: Originally published June 8, 2016]
Imagine a fantastical, enchanted, Cirque de Soleil/Carnival/Renaissance Fair. A Circus of Dreams if you will. It is nothing more than a game and everything but a game at the same time. It’s all fantastical and incredibly, and yet you find the ordinary things just as charming. It’s a very nice combination of practical and mystical.
There are three stories that overlap and intertwine throughout the book. There is the story of the circus as you perceive it, the one that begins the book with, “The circus arrives without warning.” The second is the story of Celia and Marco, and the third story is about a boy named Bailey. They run parallel to each other until the end of the book, at which point they all intersect.
It’s fantastically written, and for as large a cast of characters you know everyone, and everyone is important. I will admit to being slightly worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep track of everyone at the very beginning, but my fears were all for naught.
What sets the plot in motion at the very beginning is two grown ass men wanting to have a “challenge” and they chose two children (Celia and Marco) to manipulate to be the challengers. These children have no choice in the matter. It’s a bit of an uncomfortable set up, but it also sets the stage for an “it’s time for the young people to take the reigns” arc, which is something I really enjoyed. There are three generations in this book. The first generation, Hector Bowen and Mr. A. H., who initiates the challenge. The two young people Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, who must survive the challenger. And then the children, Bailey and Poppet, the generation who will run things after the challenge. As someone who is part of a generation that is dealing with the repercussions of the actions of the generations before me, I enjoyed that a great deal.
Warning: Oh boy is there some child abuse stuff at the beginning. Celia’s father Hector is not a nice person. There is a scene where he cuts open her fingers and makes her heal them. All this is done under the name of training her, but it’s abusive and manipulative. The worst of it passes after the first few chapters. Narratively it’s hard to skip over because you do miss things if you avoid it. Hector also belittles his daughter throughout the book.
Another Warning: Suicide. There are two references to it, one at the very beginning with Celia’s mother and a second one with the death of another character that is a much larger event. It’s a little ambiguous whether it was an accident or an act of suicide however.
Overall, and despite the bury your gays moment, I liked the book. I thought the pacing was a little weird towards the end where all the storylines come together, but other than that it was a very smooth read.
Interested parties can find it here.
Snaps (only one this time sorry):