My rating: 2 of 5 stars
While the idea is kind of cool, the execution was not there. Exceedingly long descriptions meant to fascinate and beguile were simply too much. The author spends too much time insisting how magical everything in the circus is without really giving the reader much reason to buy into it.
I never became invested in any of the characters. There was a very long buildup, where all the characters were introduced (well most, except for the rather tacked-on-feeling addition of the character of Bailey that comes later), which seemed unnecessary, as many of them were not developed in any meaningful way (Mr. Barris, Mme. Padva, the Burgess sisters). Both the excess of characters and the lengthy descriptions of the circus tents felt like smoke and mirrors to distract from the fact that the author did not quite know how to put her rather neat idea into a coherent story. And again, I felt more like were told how fabulous the circus attractions were rather than given any proof of it. They mostly seemed to rely on the elements of water, fire and ice or some dominant color scheme as their focus, which is not all that imaginative. Don’t tell me how enchanting something is–give me a real reason to believe it is such.
The nonlinear narrative also didn’t work for me. This can be a great technique to hint and tease at what’s to come, showing a reality so different from the main timeline that the reader has to keep reading to find out how things all went so wrong/changed so drastically/came to that point. I didn’t get any of that from the chronological jumps used here.
And finally, the ending was incredibly unsatisfying. (view spoiler) So, all in all, I found myself racing just to get through this so I can go on to something more satisfying (hopefully!).