Theatre of Marvels – Lianne Dillsworth

Published By: Random House
Pages: 400
Released On: 14/04/2022

Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. Young actress, Zillah, is headlining tonight. An orphan from the slums of St Giles, her rise to stardom is her ticket out – to be gawped and gazed at is a price she is willing to pay. Rising up the echelons of society is everything Zillah has eve dreamed of. But when a new stage act disappears, Zillah is haunted by a feeling that something is amiss. Is the woman in danger?

Her pursuit of the truth take her into the underbelly of the city – from gas-lit streets to the sumptuous parlours of Mayfair – as she seeks the help of notorious criminals from her past and finds herself town between two powerful admirers. Caught in a labyrinth of dangerous truths, will Zillah face ruin – or will she be the maker of her fate?

*****

Thanks to Random House for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

Considering I knew very little about the plot of this book, it was one I was very excited about reading. I kept seeing people getting their advanced copies and was desperate to be among them, and then I got sent a digital copy. I was going to wait closer to the April release date to read it, but I couldn’t hold off any longer.

It’s hard to find the words to fully do this book justice; it’s simply spellbinding. It is so detailed with little nuances, down to the very smallest, seemingly insignificant, detail. Dillsworth uses a backdrop of a theatre show, and a freak show, to explore the hardships women, and women of colour particularly, had to go through in Victorian England,

Every chapter is so deliciously addictive that you plan to read to the end of the chapter and put it down, but it sucks you in that you have to carry on; you simply don’t want to leave their world.

All the chapters are well written, from the ‘heroes’ to the ‘villains’, with believable backstories and motives. No-one is a caricature or over the top, they are all very real.

It is a very enjoyable and entertaining story, with a strong and powerful message, and I feel it will be gracing many people’s bookshelves, and many award lists, come April.

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