I received this e-Arc from Netgalley, this is a scheduled review for a week before the public release.
Published By: Tachyon
Release Date: 14th November 2017
Paperback Edition Page Count: 288 pages
Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations of your favourite tales. Ringmaster and internationally bestselling author Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Emily’s Lightship) spins modern fantasy classics in tales that go well beyond Wonderland or Oz, down the rabbit hole and back to – and beyond – the treasured tales you thought you knew: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and many more. A girl blown away from Kansas returns as a sophisticate with unusual gymnastic abilities. A talented apprentice, forging her first sword, is suddenly left to the mercies of Merlin. Alice’s infamous nemesis has jaws and claws, but also lacks the essential: a sense of humour. These tales go well beyond the rabbit hole and back again.
This was not at all what I was expecting. I haven’t read any of Jane Yolen’s previous works, and after this I might have to. What I was expecting was to follow all the characters’ journeys, and see where they collide and what part they play in an Emerald Circus inspired by The Wizard of Oz. I was partly correct, but this is not a novel as I am used to reading them. This is a collection of short stories, all based off of a fairytale or a fairytale writer and then followed up by the author explaining the “behind the scenes” of each story – something I particularly enjoyed.
First, we have an introduction by Holly Black, and this caught my eye. I have only read two of Black’s books (The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Darkest Part of the Forest), both reads were fairytale-based and I heavily enjoyed them. Whenever I see something is written by Holly Black, I feel inclined to pick it up. If Black enjoys the book, hopefully I will.
We then jump into a story that might have inspired Frozen as Hans, a famous fairytale writer, interacts with one of the characters he writes (the Ice Queen). This is followed by short stories inspired by fairytales such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, Emily Dickinson and many more. It’s not often I get to read a fairytale retelling so, when I do, I get very excited.
What sucked me in right from the start was how good the writing style and the storytelling was. It flowed so effortlessly, and I suppose with all the practice Yolen has had with her previous works she’d be very good at it by now. It wasn’t overly simple, like I am used to fairytales being told as, but it wasn’t descriptive. She somehow managed to describe characters and settings and worlds without describing it, but telling it, which is something I don’t often see in literature. Her writing is 5/5 for me.
Because this wasn’t an ordinary book, this was a collection of short stories with many characters, it’ll be hard to review them. Yolen offered a different perspective to the characters we all know and love, especially I feel Peter Pan (who I personally feel was always a narcissistic sociopath but Yolen really brought it out in him). They all had some depth to them, many were more darkness than light, and it was oddly realistic for something filled with things that don’t exist. It was like putting real characters into fake situations that could never happen with real, human reactions (or non-human, in some cases). Although I didn’t like every character, I did like how the characters were written for the most part, even though we didn’t really get to know them (probably because we already did).
There wasn’t really a plot. None of the stories connected with one another, aside from them being very dark retellings. The plots within the individual stories, however, made very little sense to me which isn’t entirely a bad thing. They seemed to just be short little stories taken from a much bigger one and twisted into something else. A majority I found were really good and really dark, just very interesting and engaging regardless of how much or little sense they were making. Some of them, especially the longer/dragged out chapters, were boring and had a bit of information in there that wasn’t really important but I just enjoyed the writing style so much that I found it interesting regardless.
Super interesting and engaging. Shame about the lack of diversity. It covered really dark topics, such as incest at one point (it was subtle, there is nothing graphic!), there were some things in here I think others may find triggering like death and illness. The writing style and storytelling were great. I am probably going to buy a finished copy of this book because I think this is going to be something I would want to go back and re-read (at least some of the stories if not the entire thing). It was weird, it was fairytales, I love weird and fairytales. 4/5.
Until next time,