The Ladies of the Secret Circus – Constance Sayers

Published By: Little Brown, Platkus
Pages: 464
Released On: 11/11/2021

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 is 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 tip 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.

*****

Thanks to Little Brown for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review. 

I didn’t realise I already owned a book by Constance – A Witch in Time – but hadn’t actually got round to reading, so this was my first foray into her world.

I can take or leave books that flit between time periods. Some are well executed, some are a little discombobulated. This fell into the latter category for the first few chapters, but once I knew how they linked with each other and who the characters to take note of were, then they really flowed nicely.

I think Constance has hit the perfect balance when describing magic in this book. She shows it not always huge grand gestures, it can often be very slight spells, and she as it’s not always the positive thing we think of in fantasy books like Harry Potter, and it can actually be something to fear for the spellmaker and the victim. 

The offputting but equally star-of-the-show plot point is how mundane or everyday magic could be – it could be under our noses and we would never know. As a whole, we’re so reluctant to believe in the supernatural or the ‘other side’ that we might be cutting ourselves off from the most spellbinding of experiences. 

It is at times a very heartbreaking story – for numerous reasons – and really grabs your heartstrings in both hands and drags you through the entire ride.

There’s so many intricacy interwoven layers that all magically fit together. I can only imagine the storyboards or plans that Constance would have needed to ensure everything lined up perfectly.

It’s so viscally* described that it’s so obvious this would make a stunning TV or movie series. And here’s hoping there’s going to be a sequel as I am not finished with this world.

*Google tried to tell me that ‘viscally’ wasn’t actually a word, and I clearly meant ‘visually’. But I’m certain that ‘viscally’ – to mean described visually and clearly – is a real word so I’ve decided to keep it in.

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