Author: Elizabeth Macneal
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 1, 2022
Book Description: Step up, step up! In 1860s England, circus mania is sweeping the nation. Crowds jostle for a glimpse of the lion-tamers, the dazzling trapeze artists and, most thrilling of all, the so-called “human wonders.”
When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders pitches its tent in a poor coastal town, the life of one young girl changes forever. Sold to the ringmaster as a “leopard girl” because of the birthmarks that cover her body, Nell is utterly devastated. But as she grows close to the other performers, she finds herself enchanted by the glittering freedom of the circus, and by her own role as the Queen of the Moon and Stars.
Before long, Nell’s fame spreads across the world—and with it, a chance for Jasper Jupiter to grow his own name and fortune. But what happens when her fame begins to eclipse his own, when even Jasper’s loyal brother Toby becomes captivated by Nell? No longer the quiet flower-picker, Nell knows her own place in the world, and she will fight for it.
Circus of Wonders is “a beautifully told and immersive look at a complex dance between exploitation and empowerment, and the question of what it really means to have control over your own life” (Naomi Ishiguro, author of Escape Routes).
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review: The descriptively stunning novel set in the world of the circus during the Victorian era. This a coming of age story of Nell, born with birth marks all of her body. She is sold to the circus by her father for twenty pounds. Jasper Jupiter’s circus is very popular during this time and wants to make Nell a star. Nell, of course, does not want to be there, but quickly finds her home in a place where people who look a little different are more than welcomed.
Jasper’s britches are little bit bigger than he is, and with Nell’s stardom, he decides to take a large loan out from a loan shark, regretting the decision shortly after. Along with his brother Toby they try to save this world not just for themselves but for the people that are part of it.
There is love in multiple ways, that is written so lovely. Nell and Toby share something so special that is almost unbreakable, until it isn’t.
The descriptions are beautiful and the author wrote Nell a beautiful story. Everything else that surrounds it, is slightly under par. Give me Nell’s story alone and this would have been a 5 star read, instead Jasper’s story takes over and while he was interesting, it just does not shine like Nell’s.
Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.