The Circus Rose

Clarion. Jun. 2020. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328639509.
Gr 7 Up–Twins Rosie and Ivory have always been the heart of their mother’s circus. Despite their differences—one is a performer, the other an engineer—the sisters’ connection runs deep. After a long tour of the faraway Fey lands, the circus returns home to a changing world. Religious fervor is rising and it is not long before preachers and zealots are railing outside the circus grounds. Something is wrong in the city and Ivory must root it out before it consumes her sister and their circus. Told in chapters that alternate both narrator and style—prose for Ivory and verse for Rosie—this queer fantasy is a very loose retelling of “Snow-White and Rose-Red.” With a mix of traditional fantasy and steampunk-style technology, the world is interesting and elaborate, with issues of social justice and evolving society that feel genuine and timely. Regardless, the book suffers from too many good ideas without the room to develop. Rosie’s chapters are lovely poetry; often moving, but may leave readers wanting in the shadow of Ivory’s lengthier and clearer narration. The book’s shining moments lie in the rich cast of supporting characters, like the charming agender Fey magician; the girls’ bearded, polyamorous, ringmaster mother; and a dancing bear hiding her own mysteries.
VERDICT A secondary purchase for most collections, give to readers craving bolder queerness in their fantasy.

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