Reality is in the eye of the beholder…
Even among the many unusual members of the travelling circus that has always been her home sixteen year old Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years.
This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all of their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real.
Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Now she must unravel the horrifying truth before all her loved ones disappear.
I really enjoyed this book, the premise, the world building, the dark and shadowy setting, the characters and the twisty, turning plot all contributed to a wonderfully unique and absorbing story.
I love how the author took historicity of Gomorrah and developed an alternative time line with a fantasy spin. Rather than being destroyed by fire and brimstone, the city survived as a roaming mobile carnival-city of vice, freaks and magic workers.
I loved the imagery of a gigantic; smoke engulfed city crawling from region to region bringing with it its many entertainments. Despite its intimidating façade and its reputation of vice and dubious inhabitants, it held within it a community that was generally accepting of all of its inhabitants, and each member valued for their individual skills and their contribution to the ongoing function of the city.
I don’t have a single favorite character; rather I really enjoyed Sorina’s entire family. I loved the premise behind their creation. How, despite springing forth from Sorena’s imagination, they emerged altered in ways that she couldn’t even begins to envision and how they develop way beyond the initial concept of Sorina’s imagination, developing personalities and leading lives independent of Sorina. I think it was a great analogy of young adulthood, building an increasingly independent life away from your family and beginning to see that the members of your family and community exist outside their roles within your own experience.
Peppered throughout the book are illustrations of Soruna’s family of freaks, each one doctored by an unknown assailant. These brief sketch like interludes give you further glimpses in to the mind of Sorina and her feelings for her family as she was creating them, while the sinister unattributed additions ramp up the tension and give a glimpse in to the nefarious pans of a disturbed imagination.
These clever additions ramped up the tension and made me worry for the characters I had grown to love. It was a really interesting way to add an alternative “voice” to a story that is otherwise told in first person present tense. A brilliant example of how illustration can complement and add depth to the text of the story by evoking and enhancing the atmosphere the author’s words have provoked.
I would thoroughly recommend this book. It was an absorbing, fantastical twisting and turning tale, like nothing I’ve read before.
Verdict: Like the smoky nocturnal city itself this book invites you in to its constantly moving world of magic and stomach twisting entertainment.
Reviewed by Caroline