Thanks to NetGalley and Redhook for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: March 23rd, 2021
Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder—a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family’s strange and magical circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows—until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate love affair that could cost her everything.
Virginia, 2005: Lara Barnes is on top of the world—until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Desperate, her search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals and sweeps her into the story of a dark circus and a generational curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. (Goodreads)
The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a darkly magical read, that I enjoyed so much I didn’t want it to come to an end. The first quarter of the book delves into the life of Lara in 2004/2005 as she struggles to move on after the mysterious disappearance of her fiancé on their wedding day. You find out a little bit of her background, and her family’s magic, but the real revelations come when her great-grandmother Cecile’s journals fall into her hands. The majority of the book alternates from Jazz Age Paris to the early 2000s and what Lara discovers involves the supernatural, star-crossed lovers, a family curse, and the question of what you’re willing to sacrifice to save the one you love. It’s exquisitely told and although it’s almost 500 pages long, I had to make a concentrated effort to slow down. There are so many elements to this atmospheric novel: demonology, history, art, circuses, and magical realism. Sayers skillfully builds layer upon layer, until I felt as though I was within the pages of the book. There’s a little bit of romance but this isn’t really the focus of the story. All that’s left to say is that The Ladies of the Secret Circus is creative, mesmerizing storytelling at its finest, and perfect for fans of The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.