Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Magician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life hiding the fact that his power is real. Instead, Gilbert journeys from town to town, along with his patient companion, Emilia the mouse, trolling for easy marks in the worst of places and pubs along the way. Gilbert’s love of drink and quick temper has often gotten him into trouble but never like the hornets nest he stirred up in the town of Shadowsea. A dark, disreputile place, home of the infamous slumlord Count Reuben, who gets wind of his abilities after a fight in one of his pubs. Gilbert’s flees with Emelia until his only option to survive is hiding within the Circus of the Damned .
Only the Circus of the Damned isn’t merely an unusual name but a unique circus with dark secrets of its own. It’s handsome ringmaster Jesse’s responsiblity to make sure their numbers stay the same. And when a performer dies, a new replacement must be found within 24 hours or all is lost, including their souls. A recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need. A soul in exchange for safety inside the Circus as a performer. Only Gilbert doesn’t exactly believe in the pact or the Circus for that matter. For Gilbert expediency is everything until its not and reality sets in.
But something far darker looms on the horizon, for Gilbert and the Circus of the Damned. For Count Reuben hasn’t forgotten about Gilbert and is pursuing him still. As the danger grows all around them, and other mages start disappearing, Gilbert, Jesse and the Circus of the Damned place everything on the line for survival and for love.
Just the blurb for The Circus of the Damned was alluring enough for me to pick up this story and start reading. Never quite the fan of clowns and circuses, the premise was one I found easy to believe in, a company of damned souls and supernatural talents who journeyed around the world holding special shows whose audience was often as unusual as the performers themselves. Yes, I was hooked well and good.
But Cornelia Grey’s marvelous execution of this premise and the complex,haunting universe she has created for The Circus of the Damned exceeded all my expectations and then stomped them into the dust. Part steampunk , part hellmouth, always fascinating, from the miserable town of Shadowsea to the encircled caravans of the Circus of the Damned, no little detail goes unnoticed or fails to enchance Grey’s tale of magic, devilry, and romance.
Circuses as I have said, are the perfect devil’s playground, From the garish makeup, tents, trailers and oddities of the side show, this venue lends itself to otherworldly elements like a duck does to water. And the foundation is always in its performers, as it is with the characters Grey has created here. But first, let’s start with Gilbert Blake, an often drunken mage with anger issues who often takes the easy road in life. He drinks, cheats, and scurries along, accompanied by only the most tolerant mouse alive, Emilia. Gilbert is everyone’s problem at the beginning, including the readers. He’s just not that likable to start off with. Luckily that will change once he is forced to enter the Circus, but even then he can be a problematic leading man. Only as he starts to accept his fate and really takes notice of his fellow performers and situation does this character grow and our liking of him along with it.
But even as we are having problems engaging with Gilbert, there’s Jesse, Dora, Ramona, and Constance. There’s the remarkable Olivia, and Mildred, and of course, Farfarello, to delight, horrify, and pull us forever into their stories and lives. It’s that damned Circus of the Damned that’s so mesmerizing and fanciful that you just can’t get enough of the place or people (or beings for that matter). Here is Cornelia Grey’s Pinterest Inspiration board, as scary and haunting as you will find. That circus and the history behind it is the hook that will pull you in and keep you enthralled while you are waiting for Gilbert to develop into a character you and Jesse can love. Yes, that happens, along with so many other startling plot threads that I remained happily ensconced in this world 347 pages to the end. And then wanted more.
And I do want more. I want to see what happens next, I want more backstory, and definitely more of their future. Another story perhaps? That would be delightful and satisfying. Of course, Farfarello appears in other tales, Devil at the Crossroads, the first in Cornelia Grey’s Deal with a Devil series. And by the title here, it would appear that more Deal with the Devil tales are coming. Now only if they can include a certain circus….
Make your introduction to these devilishly entertaining group of performers and the fantastical world Cornelia Grey has created for them here with The Circus of the Damned. It delivers a new perspective from which to view the big top, magic, and captured souls looking for love. It’s a recommended read here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. Grab it up today. Happy Reading.
Cover art by Kanaxa. Oh! How I love that cover. Spooky, haunting, and totally captivating. If the title didn’t already pull you in, that cover would. One of the best of the year.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing All Romance eBooks amazon The Circus of the Damned
ebook, 347 pages
Expected publication: November 3rd 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleCircus of the Damned (A Deal with a Devil Story)
seriesDeal with a Devil