Title: Circus of the Damned (A Deal with a Devil Story)
Author: Cornelia Grey
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: historical alternate universe fantasy, m/m romance
Release date: November 3, 2014
Story rating: 4 out of 5
Smex-o-meter: 3.5 out of 5
Blurb: 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.
Review: Cornelia Grey is known to give us inventive fantasy stories and Circus of the Damned is no exception. It’s a visual, descriptive, fantasy story in a historical jacket that almost makes it like you are right there along with Gilbert and Jesse. It may be set around the theme “deals with the devil” but it’s most definitely not what you may think.
Gilbert is a man with a unique talent, but he hasn’t worked out how to make that talent work in his favour and he almost always ends up in trouble or down in the slums trying to keep himself and his mouse companion Emelia alive. That all changes when a gamble / performance draws the wrong attention and he quite literally runs into the Circus of the Damned while trying to make an escape.
No one accused Gilbert of being smart, so he’s off to a rocky start, but once he stops being stubborn and obnoxious, he just might make it work. Then there is Jesse, he might just be the best darned thing about the Circus. Like everything in Gilbert’s life, it isn’t going to be easy.
The story of Circus of the Damned is definitely unique and written in a visual way. Because the story is very descriptive it makes it look like there is a lot more going on than there is. However, between the romance, the background and history of the Circus, the performance and action and the bit of mystery, the story is even paced. And it is a page-turner!
Circus of the Damned not only has good, well-written main characters, but also a good support cast that gives the story that extra dimension and makes it come alive. Gilbert and Jesse are the main focus of the story, but they don’t carry the story alone. And let me tell you, there are some interesting characters around that circus!
What took away a bit from the story was the air of naivety around some of the characters. Not too bad and I won’t go into details, but it seemed a bit out of sorts with their surroundings.
What is definitely a plus is that Gilbert isn’t your run-of-the-mill, stereotypical perfect book character. He is the voice of the story, but sometimes you just want to hit him over the head…with a crowbar. Then again, his head is quite hard; it might not make a difference.
The thing I was a bit confused about was if this story can be considered Steampunk or not. There are some elements that fit the description, but not all of them. It doesn’t take away from the story though!
Why you should read it: There is no doubt about it. This is a good historical fantasy story with some dark elements and an exciting story with some inventive world-building and fascinating characters. I can highly recommend it to readers who like fantasy stories.
- I received an ARC through Netgalley