THE NIGHT CIRCUS
A black and white circus only open at night; tents and performances that blend the extraordinary with the real; an exhibition competition displayed for all the world to see. Those are the heart and soul of The Night Circus.
From a very young age, both Celia Bowen and Marco have been chosen to be the competitors in a dangerous game involving manipulation and enchantment. They train in vastly different methods under completely different teachers until the venue for their competition is set. From there, their battle spans years and continents and involves more and more people who have come to love the circus as their own. And in the process, the two are drawn to one another.
This tale is told magically, with prose that takes you on a journey through this circus, describing in intricate detail the tents, the performers, the manipulated elements that astound and spark excitement. There is love invested in these details that bring this setting to life, moreso than even the characters that walk and live and love among the black and white tents.
While there is a large cast, this is not a character story. Though there is romance, it is quick and distant rather than intimate. The mystery of The Night Circus is less mystery than it is mystical, with us along for the ride to discover just what might happen to all the people who have become intertwined with the venue.
This is, first and foremost, a story about a circus, and the love one has for that own special place filled with the people we care about most. I’d recommend this story for those needing to be stolen away to a place of wonder, for those wanting to enjoy the reading more than getting to the end of the journey. For those who love circuses and for those who don’t, but would love the chance to fall in love with one anyway.
Both of these stories feature women dissatisfied with their life and the culture surrounding and influencing them.
ADVANCED WORD PROBLEMS IN PORTAL MATH by Aimee Picchi is a sweet flash piece told in word problems. It’s about a girl who longs for a chance at a different life, one not foisted upon her, one that allows her to escape from the cultural pressures that hold her down. Published in Daily Science Fiction.
DO NOT LOOK BACK, MY LION by Alix E. Harrow is a tale about a woman, husband to a female war chief. She has spent her life helping to raise her wife’s children, each of them promised to the war god and path of her people. But this constant uplifting of their leader’s wars grinds the main character down, and thus she runs. But running is only the beginning. Published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
by Eoin Colfer
Deep in the swamps lives a dragon who goes by the name of Vern. Oh, he used to be something grander, a Lord Highfire, but nowadays with the wyverns all but gone, Vern just wants to live alone, enjoy his days in the bayou with his cable and armchair and vodka.
The second lead character in this novel is a fifteen-year old who goes by Squib and who has just the right amount of luck to watch his boss murdered by the local constable, who, just so happens, also is attempting to woo Squib’s mother. Life is complicated. Made more so when he ends up getting tapped to fill some shoes and begin delivering for a real-life dragon who can’t exactly get his alcohol himself. At least not without terrorizing the locals and having to relocate afterwards.
But the local constable wants Squib out of the way and doesn’t mind that way being deep in the depths of the swamp where no one will ever find him. And if a dragon happens to get in the way, well, the constable can work with that too.
Vern might just have to break a few of his own rules and gives his armchair and vodka a break in order to help the first human he’s actually come to care about for a long, long time.
This fantasy novel is a fun, easy read, perfect for a wide variety of ages. It leaves you satisfied without much emotional upheaval other than a happy-minded contentment for having read.
by Nnedi Okorafor
Sankofa, the Adopted Daughter of Death, is a young girl protected by a green glow from within that can kill all it encompasses. Everyone knows of her, everyone fears her, and the tales told of her are many and varied.
Remote Control takes you through Sankofa’s life, from her youthful bouts of malaria and her conversations with a mysterious seed, through her attempts to live undisturbed in a world that insists on her evilness. This is a tale about perseverance, prejudice, and home.
There’s a lovely metaphor here for all those who have at some point in their lives felt they ruined everything they touched, who have struggled to find a place where they belong, people who could understand them. For those who feel they hurt those closest to them, and try as they might, always seem to destroy good things around them, this tale can be cathartic.
Yet, this story is also for those who have grown stronger because of the thorns on their path. Sankofa might not be who we are, but there’s a piece of her in all of us.
These two are different in tone, yet are similar in character, with both stories revolving around a character with a power that others come seeking.
A GIFT, A WITCH AND A WAKENING OF HONEY by Elou Carroll is a warm, homey story about bees who come seeking help from a witch in order to heal a gray cast that has overwhelmed their colony. Quick and fun, this story could be a pick-me-up and give you a smile, what with the main character’s attitude and the bees’ penchant for gift-giving. Published in Hexagon.
DEAD AT THE FEET OF A GOD by Izzy Wasserstein is far more maudlin in tone, a story told by skipping backward in time to reveal the terrible path that has led the main character to the feet of a god. Yet, the main character also possesses a power, one of foreknowledge that resounds within the style chosen, as you, the reader, have foreknowledge of where the story will end. Published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.