Title: The Circus Rose
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication date: June 16th, 2020
A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family.
Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.
In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.
**Thank you to Clarion Books, Netgalley, and Betsy Cornwell for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**
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.
Happy reading, folks!