By Laura Lam
Osprey Publishing, February 2013
Got it from NetGalley! And that’s ALL I got!
As soon as I saw the title, and cover (I have serious feelings for this cover), for this book, I knew I had to read it. While looking around on NetGalley one day, it popped up and I immediately requested it. I was so tickled when I got the notice I was approved and immediately dug in.
And then, I couldn’t put it down.
This book has many of my necessary requirements for a great story. Mystery. Magic. Subterfuge. Feisty young girls looking to prove themselves. Feisty young people looking to prove themselves. And then, dang it, a blatant To Be Continued… at the end.
Iphigenia “Gene” Laurus is the daughter of a noble family from Ellada. Gene is something of a Tom Girl. No, make that a complete TOM GIRL. She hates crinolines. She hates corsets. She loves running and playing and climbing trees and just generally being one of The Boys. And Gene has a secret, one that she can never tell anyone, for it would be the downfall of her family.
Micah Grey is a runaway living on the streets. He can’t seem to catch a break in regard to finding food, living quarters, or a job. When he sees aerialists perform at R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, Micah finally sees what he wants to do. He fights to join the circus and soon, is a rising star. Yet Micah has to be very careful, for he has a secret that could ruin it all for him.
I can’t tell you how much I wanted this to be an awesome book for me. We have a great cover, a great premise, a TOM GIRL, a self-made acrobat, and a circus. And mysteries and secrets and subterfuge. It sounds awesome, right? Yet, somehow, there is something keeping me from the butt-crazy love affair I was hoping for. After, well, weeks, eh, maybe months (when did I read this book???) after finishing, and taking the time to puzzle it out, my main problem comes down to the main characters; Gene and Micah. I had a hard time with them. I shouldn’t have any trouble identifying with Gene (to a certain extent, which I will not divulge here. I believe it’s intended to be a bit of surprise and I don’t want to ruin it inadvertently) being that she is a Tom Girl (I was a Tom Girl) who is not comfortable in her skin, let alone the awful constricting corsets and dresses she’s forced to wear (Dude, do I hate a dress? Yes.). Throughout the book, despite this characters’ honesty with the reader (again, not going completely into this…let’s just say she has a HUGE secret), it felt like Gene was holding back. Or maybe I was holding back, who knows. I just felt like I never got to really KNOW Gene like I was supposed to do. I never connected to her. Or Micah for that matter, although I feel like I know Micah better. OMG this is so confusing and if you have read the book, I expect you know what I mean.
And then, there is of course, that part of me that feels like this disconnection was part of the intent. On some level, I feel like this is the case. Obviously, I need to think on this some more.
So, despite that problem, never connecting with the characters and all, I did enjoy the book enough to be curious about the next one in the series. The life of the circus was fascinating, and the love story (there is always a love story, yeah?) was actually well done. I liked Micah’s crush the most of all the characters. I enjoyed the fantasy and steampunk elements. And Lam did an amazing job building the world of the circus. As I said, I had trouble putting this book down. And I really admire what Lam was trying to do with Gene and Micah. I’m hoping this was first novel jitters and that the sophomore novel will she she’s worked out the kinks. There is tons of potential here.
“I’ll prove it to you, sir,” I said, and broke away from the clown and dashed toward the ladder to the tightrope. The circus folk jeered and catcalled. Their cries spurred me on. I clambered onto the small wooden platform and my head spun as I looked down, though I had climbed much higher than this in the past. I looked up at the trapeze and began to judge the distance.
People trickled in. Grubby little children grinned and pointed at the rings in the center of the stage. Courting and married pairs strolled, the men with their cravats and the ladies in the bonnets and bustles. Hawkers wasted no time and circled and weaved through the rows, calling out their wares.
The aerialist stepped onto the tightrope. The rope bend slightly under her weight and I held my breath, frightened she would fall.
But her feet were steady as she made her slow, steady crossing in midair. She looked so dainty and delicate as she walked, pointing her toes when she lifted a foot, holding the parasol aloft, as though she could bend her legs, propel herself upwards, and fly away. The light filtered through the lace, shadows dappling her skin. When she finally made it across, I let out the breath I had been holding and clapped as loudly as I could.
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