Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Magician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life conning drunkards in the seediest pubs in the darkest towns, careful to hide the true depths of his power. But when he spends a little too much time in Shadowsea and the infamous slumlord Count Reuben gets wind of his abilities, hiding within the Circus of the Damned may be Gilbert’s only chance at survival.
But there’s more to the Circus than meets the eye. Every time a performer dies, a new one must take his place, or the entire circus suffers the consequences. And while the handsome ringmaster Jesse isn’t one to coerce unwilling performers into giving up their souls to the devil, a recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need.
Yet the longer Gilbert stays with the Circus, the more danger he seems to bring them. Being with Jesse is more than Gilbert could have hoped for, but as Count Reuben’s men continue to search for Gilbert and the Circus loses another performer, they all face running out of time long before the Devil claims his due.
First of all, I had very high expectations of this book, since I absolutely loved “Devil at the Crossroads by Cornelia Grey” . Unfortunately, this book didn’t quite manage to live up to my expectations.
But let’s talk about the things I liked first. Once again, Cornelia Grey gave the trope of the “deal with the devil” an interesting and unique twist. The descriptions of the circus were full of loving details that made the whole setting come alive. I could practically breathe the circus air and see myself talking to all those unusual and strange circus performers.
I could easily relate to the protagonists and found myself head over heels for Gilbert within a few words. Gilbert is a real man – he drinks, he gambles (and cheats), he’s got a foul mouth and doesn’t mind the occasional brawl and he’s absolutely unapologetic about it. He openly admits that his pet mouse is probably a lot more intelligent than him and saved his ass on more than one occasion. I loved how Miss Grey gave even Gilbert’s mouse her own distinct characteristics.
The plot was fascinating from the very beginning. There’s tons of actions and the love story between Gilbert and Jesse develops as more of a side product, which is a huge bonus for me because I love stories with lots of plot and little romance. Once the sex did happen, it wasn’t simply hot. It was sensual and very erotic, even if the action itself was mostly vanilla. The UST up to that point alone had me drooling. Miss Grey definitely knows how to write sex! I loved that there were no sappy declarations of love. Gilbert is a man of action, so he acted and didn’t talk.
Unfortunately, the minor characters didn’t get quite as much love as the protagonists did. Sure, there are lots of weird and unique people, but overall I would have loved to find out more about them. A few more conversations between Gilbert and the other circus performers would have been nice.
The world building was a little disappointing as well. There were some very interesting concepts there, but the bigger picture kind of fell flat. I couldn’t tell if this was a completely different world or if it was a kind of historical AU. That was a real shame.
To sum it up, “The Circus of the Damned” was a very enjoyable read. I’m hoping for a sequel so we get to find out more about the world and the side characters.
Cover by Kanaxa is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I’d love to have this book as a paperback, simply because it would look so amazing in my real bookshelf. It’s definitely the best of the series.
ebook, 347 pages
Published November 3rd 2014 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleCircus of the Damned (A Deal with a Devil Story)