The Ladies of the Secret Circus
Author: Constance Sayers
Narrator: Emily Lawrence
Publication Date: 23 March 2021
Genre: Adult Fiction – Fantasy/Magical Realism
Length: 15 hours 39 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio
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.
I’ll be honest, I’m always a bit hesitant when it comes to fantasy that falls into the realm of magical realism because I am more of a in your face magic as well as exploring a new world type of person. That being said, I was so pleasantly surprised with how fantastic this story was.
And before I even get into this review, I will start by saying that if you go into this book thinking that it will be The Night Circus or make that comparison, you will be disappointed. This is a completely different story, and so much darker than I expected to be (which is well done).
This story alternates between two different timelines: 1925 Paris and 2005 Virginia.
The story opens in 2005 with the mysterious disappearance of Laura Barnes’ fiancé right before their wedding. Ben is the detective assigned to this case, and he is definitely in over his head since the crime rate in their area is abnormally low.
Honestly though, the mysterious disappearance of Laura’s fiancé pales in comparison to the person who is actually after Laura and is actively trying to destroy her. I found myself fully engrossed in this mystery aspect, and even though I wasn’t particularly blown away by the revelation, I still loved how everything unfolded.
The circus itself was incredible, but what set it apart from previous circus stories that I read was the fact that this circus is run by one of the demons of hell. I don’t want to give anything more away than that because I think that it’s something that you should experience for yourself.
I also really enjoyed the flashbacks to 1925 Paris where we follow Cecile Cabot. Her narrative really comes to life through the journal that Laura discovers.
Overall, if you’re a fan of genre-bending stories that aren’t afraid to dive into the realm of magic and fantasy then this story will definitely be for you!
Thank you to Hachette Audio for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.