Cover Image: The Circus Rose

The Circus Rose

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Member Reviews

First things first, this book was a wild ride. Upon reading the description, I did not expect so many things to be happening all at once. Other than the main setting being the Circus, I was a little confused on the setting and had a tough time visualizing what the scene should look like. With mention of airships and aerograms, with the mixture of the circus life, I thought maybe I should be thinking steampunk, but I'm not entirely convinced of that. The point of views of both Ivory and Rosie are by far, my favorite part of this book. It sheds light on the personalities of both girls. You have Ivory, the serious and intellectual twin, retelling the events at face value. Then, Rosie, with a performers heart, it's only natural that her point of view be told in the form of poetry. Speaking of the poetry, it was absolutely beautiful to read. I enjoyed reading Ivory's tales, but I couldn't wait to soak in the poetry in just about every other chapter. Bravo to the writer for making me feel with Rosie, every time I read her chapters. The writer also found a unique way of conveying love and it's many forms. The character of Tam, the Fey magician is portrayed as neither a male or female, and pronouns such as fe, fer are used. Tam's character was written perfectly. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I am happy to have been along for the adventure of The Circus Rose and it's troupe, and family.
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Twins Ivory and Rosie grew up traveling in their ringmaster mother's circus, and although Rosie adapted to the spotlight, Ivory much prefers the stagehand way of life, unseen in the shadows. After years on the road in the distant faerie lands, the Circus Rose is back home in Port's End, where many things have changed. The fundamentalist Brotherhood, although removed from their place in the government, continues to grow on the streets. With hatred for all that is different and magical brewing, Rosie and her androgynous fae partner Tam struggle to find their place in a new society that condemns them. When disaster strikes and the circus and everything else seems to be falling apart, Rosie is forced to take charge, even if it’s all an act. After all, she grew up watching her peers perform.

I really loved the themes of social equality and justice in this novel, as well as the amazing romance between Ivory and Tam. Tam (fe/fer pronouns, because they're fae) is such an interesting character in that fe is so used to being loud and proud with fer relationships back in Faerie, only to come across the sea to a totally unwelcoming community of religious monks who tout holiness while operating an entire underground agenda. Ivory on the other hand is shocked by the change in her home, all the while she is trying to get to know her father who is now back in the picture. Polyamory is another aspect of this novel, as Mama had Rosie and Ivory from two different men, and when the fathers come back into the picture, it poses an odd dynamic for Ivory and Rosie, although the prevailing theme is that love wins out in the end.

On the other hand, the beginning 3/4's of the book were very slow for me, and the actual climax didn't come till very late in the book. I would have liked some more buildup to the action, but the perspective shift from Ivory's prose to Rosie's poetry kept it interesting enough to keep me reading. Other than pacing, I really loved all of the themes of family, love, and community in this novel as well as how it touched on severe anxiety/depression through Rosie's poetry. It's definitely worth the read, especially if you like Circuses, steampunk themes, and emotional support Bears!
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Unfortunately I struggled to get hooked on this book, so I ended up not finishing it very early into the book. For that reason, I will not be posting a review on my blog or social media.
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I read the blurb of the novel and I found it interesting and, at the beginning, it really was, but as I went on I found myself losing interest in the story and the characters. The story is told from two points of views, two sisters, twin step sisters to be precise. While Ivory’s story is well-written and flows easily, I couldn’t engage with Rosie’s perspective that it is told in poetry form and, sometimes, it is not very clear. I liked the circus and magic atmosphere and the ending was satisfying. It was not what I expected or I hoped for, but, all in all, this was a nice read.
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If there's one thing I love more than a retelling it's a queer retelling - and having had some misses with queer fiction in the recent months I was trepidatious going into this book. I was expecting there to be a background F/F relationship and not much else. 

Boy was I wrong. 

I'm going to start with the one thing that really bothered me about this book  - and yes it is the fae. Now those who've been around for a while know I tend to not enjoy the fae in books - in this instance it wasn't the presentation of the Fae that bothered me. In this case, it was the fact that it took a good amount of the book for it to become apparent that the fae existed, were an understood aspect of society and had real magic. I was reminded of how I felt about Sanctuary and how it takes a while to get the point across that magic is real and understood in normal life. It's a small worldbuilding detail in the grand scheme of things - but I feel it's something you should know from right at the start of the book - not something you should suddenly discover several chapters in. It's possible that is on me - maybe I missed a reference earlier in the book but that was the one little 'hm' moment I had. 

Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's worth saying, I can't speak to the representation of Rose as neuro-atypical - it didn't hit any red flags for me but it'll be interesting to hear some own voices reviews of this book. Rose's perspectives in the book are written in verse, which I found an interesting way of representing the character, it also moves the plot along in a surprisingly effective way. 

I won't lie, this book made me cry. And not just once. This book went to emotional places I genuinely wouldn't have expected - the ending is beautiful and I would say maybe just read it for the ending alone?

But the rest of the book is good too! I liked that the book explored the Fae as non-binary, using Fe, Fae, Fem pronouns - which is consistent throughout the book. It felt like this book was written with intersectional intent and I appreciated that. 

This isn't just the simple circus book I had thought it would be - there's a lot of nuance and....I don't have the words - there's a lot more to this book than I ever would have thought and I'd wholeheartedly recommend it (waiting on ownvoices reviews obviously). 

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 

The Circus Rose publishes June 16th
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For a book I read in a single sitting, I’m not sure how to feel about The Circus Rose. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, and I’m largely familiar with Red Rose and Snow White fairy tale from Anna-Marie McLemore’s Blanco y Roja, but this was definitely an interesting tale. I liked how Rosie’s chapters were poems and Ivory told her chapters in prose, and the ways their two perspectives wove together. I don’t think the mystery of what was happening was surprising, but I do think it was well woven into the story. My favorite part of this book is probably how utterly queer it all is. Rosie is a lesbian, and there’s no stress around it because she is who she is. Ivory is used to only being attracted to guys, but meeting Tam who is neither man nor woman she can’t deny fers beauty or appeal. Their mother loved two men and couldn’t choose, and between the time they tried to make her choose to today they’d developed a relationship and proposed to Angela. This book is mostly just…odd, I think. I liked some aspects and it was an easy read, but it was also almost lackluster?
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I fell in love with the first few chapters of this one. My goodness that packed a punch that I will not soon forget. But after those first few chapters this one started losing steam and momentum. I have to say that I actually fell asleep while reading this one.  I feel that this book needed some kind of twist or something to keep it going through the almost 300 pages.  I slogged through them since I don't DNF and I am not happier for it.
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The cover of this is so beautiful and I was immediately intrigued because of it. But it was really disappointing. The plot just meandered and I was so lost. There was both nothing and too much going on that nothing was fleshed out. I didn’t care about the characters and what was going on. The writing was lyrical, but I was lost.
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If you loved The Night Circus you will probably enjoy this book. It creates a compelling world with interesting characters and a fast paced plot. Definitely a YA that older readers can enjoy. .
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The Circus Rose, a queer reimagining of "Snow White and Rose Red," focuses on Ivory and Rosie, daughters of the Circus Rose's ring mistress.  After years on the road, they return to their birthplace, Port End, where fundamentalist preachers have taken over.  Rosie is attracted to women, but is in love with the circus's trained bear, whom she insists is a girl.  Ivory falls for Tam, a dark-skinned fey, neither male nor female, who has been hired as a magician.  The circus stages a spectacular homecoming show, but disaster strikes during Rosie's tightrope act and the circus tent burns down.  As they try to rebuild, performers are disappearing, as has their mother.  Ivory takes over as ring mistress and enlists Tam's help in getting to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances.  The present-tense, first-person narrative alternates between Rosie's pithy verse and Ivory's looping prose. This blend of fantasy and classic fiction will be available June 12th.
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Told from alternating viewpoints (Rosie and Ivory) and in alternating styles (free-verse poetry and prose), The Circus Rose is a marvelous reimagining of the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red. Rosie and Ivory are twins. Rosie is the start of the Circus Rose and Ivory is a stagehand who loves the magic created backstage. In this story, they confront bigotry, find love, as well as come into their own identities as individuals. While The Circus Rose is a fascinating and well-paced story, it also provides insightful commentary on issues relevant to our context, including religious extremism, gender identification, and gender. This book is highly recommended to fans of fantasy and folklore.
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Reading this was like reading the first draft of a story. There were a lot of potential elements, but none of them meshed well. The world-building was confusing and never fully explained. When I started the story, I thought it was set in our world during a time when circuses were a high point of entertainment, but then the book mentioned the fey and a king and countries I’d never heard of. None of it was explained so I felt like I was missing something.

I never connected with either sister because Ivory’s chapters in prose were basically her just telling the reader everything that happened and Rose’s chapters in verse did nothing to add to the story except repeat what Ivory said or include confusing ideas. 

As for the plot, nothing happens for the first half of the story and then too much happens in the latter half. Too much unnecessary plot that was resolved much too quickly and felt forced to make some kind of social justice or political statement. Really, the church is the bad guy? Because that’s never been a plot line before. 

Also, the resolution of this story was laughable. The main character does absolutely nothing to solve the problem. She has no agency except when she’s kissing and sleeping with her perfect fey partner. And I’m still not over what actually happened to the missing people. It’s ridiculous.

I also couldn’t get over some of the story points. Like the whole Bear thing being a princess? Or that Ivory’s and Rose’s dads wanted to both marry their mom and were okay with sharing her? Or that the genderless fey use made up pronouns like “fe” and “fer” that look more like typos than trying to be diverse? Nobody who edited or promoted this book thought those were bad ideas?

I gave this book a chance because I love the idea of a fairytale retelling set in a circus setting. But I just cannot believe that this book is going to be published without some serious changes to the story line and character arcs.
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Came for the steampunk circus, stayed for the alternating prose and verse. I've never read a book like this before. It was definitely an experience. I appreciate the author doing something against the grain. The decision to alternate between prose chapters and verse chapters was *chef's kiss*. It truly elevated Ivory and Rose's characterizations. I believe the world-building was top-notch. I relished all the yummy diverse rep!  The Circus Rose had the ingredients to be a four or five star read for me, however, the flat plot and uneven pacing hindered that. There was a lot going on, but no true investment to these plot elements for the reader to care. The conflicts didn't feel like conflicts as they were resolved quickly. There was no build-up, sense of immediate danger, or consistent action. 

It's a 3.5 stars rating for me.
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I can entirely see how this book would be up some people's alley, but unfortunately it didn't mesh well with me. I think the world building was too tricky for me to read about right now, so I may return to this at another time.
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The premise underlying Betsy Corwell's The Circus Rose is engaging. Imagine an Earth-like world where religious fundamentalists fight against what they call "lies"—which include everything from fiction to magic to, you guessed it, circuses. Now imagine a circus traveling by air ship, run by a bearded woman whose twin daughters each have different fathers, featuring a chorus line of dancing boys who incite desire among audiences of all sexual proclivities, and a faerie who is both a magician and double-gendered. One of the twin daughters dreams of becoming an engineer; the other is a circus performer whose closet companion is a performing bear. When the circus is burned to the ground and then its performers and staff begin disappearing, it is up the the would-be-engineer twin, Ivory, to figure out what is happening and to rescue those she loves.

Yes, there is a lot going on in this book and it is peopled with interesting characters. The plot, however is less complex than the context in which it's set. It begins slowly, then races to a too-easy conclusion at the book's end.

If you love plot-driven narrative, The Circus Rose may disappoint you. If you enjoy fiction that creates and sustains interesting worlds and charaters, you should find The Circus Rose an enjoyable read.

I received a free electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. The opinions are my own.
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The Circus Rose is a magical fantasy told in alternating POV's from twin sisters, Ivory and Rosie. The writing is so different based on what twin is narrating, and provides different context. Ivory is the more reliable narrator. Seriously the magic in this book is off the charts. Ivory and Rosie are a part of The Circus Rose, the circus hosted by their mother. For twins, Ivory and Rosie couldn't be more different - Ivory prefers to be a stagehand behind the scenes and Rosie is the high flying trapeze artist, star of the show. They are like Yin and Yang, fathered by two separate men who both loved their mother.

The main plot of the book revolves around the circus and challenges that pop during the circus. The first part of the book lays a lot of background into the twins and the circus before it gets into the main conflict. I thought the circus aspect was very compelling, along with the amalgamation of Fey, righteous Church groups, humans, a feminist world where girls can go to engineering school.

I loved the LGBTQIA pieces of the book. The Fey are described as being more androgynous, they are non-binary and have the pronouns of fe/fer. Rosie clearly identifies as only being attracted to females, and Ivory is attracted to males and Fey. Being in an open relationship or practicing polyamory is not strange. It's a very progressive and refreshing book.

The Circus Rose is an easy and quick read. The writing of Betsy Cornwell just flows so easily and it's simple to lose track of time around you as you delve into the world of the circus. For fans of Caraval, The Circus Rose is an enthralling, magical tale of sisterhood and finding yourself.
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A wonderful novel, interweaving magic and massive themes, but lightly and always intriguingly. Highly recommended.
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Recieved an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. A traveling carnival filled with magic and eccentrics journeys to fairy land. Unfortunately, The Circus Rose borrows all of its readable parts from better books, while the more original content stagnates. The conflict is theoretical, the characters underbaked. Alternating chapters between prose as and poetry kills any momentum the story accidentally creates. Read The Night Circus again instead.
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I just really didn't care for this one. Not the writing or anything I just did not enjoy it. Probably because too many different things were trying to be smushed into this one book. I did like when we finally got a little action at the end tho but then again just a lot of talking not enough doing for me.
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The Circus Rose is a retelling of "Snow White, Rose Red" set in a Steampunk circus, featuring twins, chapters in verse, a gender queer race of folks, and antagonists of a religious bent.   And you, know, for the most part, I liked those things.  For whatever reason, though, this book just didn't work for me.  The author invented a new pronoun for gender queer fairies, which is a cool idea, but pulled me out of the story every time (fe and fer).   The slightly more than occasional chapters in verse also felt jarring.  I'm not going to attempt to describe a plot, because, and this is my main quandary with the book, there really isn't much of a plot.  There's a bit of an obvious mystery that's introduced about half way in, but otherwise, the book is all circus atmosphere, quirky characters and only the hint of substance.  That said, I liked the concept. It just didn't work for me.  I'm not sure who it's for, or who I'd recommend it to. 2 stars - it was ok.

Thanks to Clarion Books and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review.  The Circus Rose will be available on 16 June.
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