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Tea-drinking introvert found either behind a book or within arm's reach of one. Book reviewer, and book sniffer. You may have seen me on W24, BooksLive, Aerodrome, Bark Magazine, CultNoise Magazine, or Expound Magazine.

27 Jul 2021

Review: Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

Nell has tried to stay out of sight her whole life. With a rare skin condition that has her peppered in spots, she’s learned to avoid the eyes in her local village. Until now. When the village hosts Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders, she catches a glimpse into a strange new world of performers and self-confessed oddities. But it isn’t until her father sells her off to the troupe that she really learns about circus life.

For the first time, Nell is using her appearance. With Jasper’s innovative thinking, a gorgeous outfit, and a little practice, she evolves from a flower-picking recluse into one of England’s top performers, even catching the eye of the Queen herself.

But Nell’s moment in the spotlight is under threat, because Jasper has been relying a little too heavily on loan sharks and promises to make his circus the greatest show in the country.

At the same time, Nell learns to navigate the minefields of love and friendship, as her world becomes more vibrant – and more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

Circus of Wonders is a truly thrilling book that hits all the right boxes, by offering the reader a little bit of everything. It has mystery, suspense, drama, romance, a brilliantly-written narrative, and a dash of magic. With an insight into the workings of Old England, Elizabeth Macneal has also managed to reimagine the concept of wonder – presenting a tradition as old as the circus in a fresh and delicious new way. But there’s more to this book than just a good circus story – there is an underlying social commentary about the dangers of judgement, as well as the unbreakable and often intimidating bonds between lovers and family. Circus of Wonders is deep, and it’s beautiful. What more could you want?

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal is published by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan.


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