City of Circles, Jess Richards Book Review

Hello mortals. I do hope you are well! Today, if you’d like to join me, I’m going to review one of the famous Hodder’s newest publications. How did City of Circles fare? Read on on find out!

Goodreads Summary:

CITY OF CIRCLES is an entrancing love story between Danu and Morrie, two circus performers, and Danu’s Lewis Carroll-esque odyssey through the magical city of Matryoshka, that ends with a heart-warming yet bittersweet twist.

Danu is a tightrope walker who is mourning her parents, after a disease has ravaged the circus where she grew up. Her mother has entrusted her with a locket that hides a secret.

Over the years, Danu pushes away her grief and develops elaborate and successful high-wire acts with Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who wants to marry her. When the circus returns to Danu’s birthplace, Matryoshka, Danu is enchanted by the temples, spice mists, and pleasure seekers within the intoxicating outer circle district.

Here, she finally gains the courage to open her mother’s locket, and discovers the name of a stranger who lives behind the locked gate of the Inner Circle. Fated to remain in Matryoshka, Danu attempts to resolve this mystery . . .

Will she and Morrie ever be reunited, or will something far more unexpected be waiting for her in the mysterious heart of the city?

Yes, it’s another book about circuses (Circi? Circes? Cirques?). I think I have the patience for maybe another 10 books set in circuses and then I’m deeming it an overdone cliché. Having said that, there’s a reason people keep writing books like this. From Flight of A Starling to Showstoppers to Daughter of the Burning City the circus has captured the imaginations of authors.

In the case of City of Circles however, the focus is not on the circus as a venue but on two of the people within it. Danu loses her parents to plague/general disease in the first few pages of the book (so I don’t think it counts as a spoiler) and the rest of the book is sort of a story of healing and dealing with long term grief. For personal reasons that theme is definitely resonating with me at the moment so I was prepared for an emotional but probably quite relatable read.

I did want to absolutely love this. I wanted it to be the beautiful story of finding oneself in the hard times with a little bit of fantasy thrown in. For some people that probably will be what this is. But for me…something was a little off.

I have never quite appreciated how people who don’t like flowery language feel until I read this book. For instance, I’m a Laini Taylor fanatic so I can never comprehend why people don’t get on with her writing. But in this instance I felt a bit like I was stuck inside a metaphor for the entire book and I wasn’t really sure how to escape and get back to…anything actually happening. Which is silly because the plot of this book is actually wonderful. It’s a love story and it’s a story about finding oneself (both literally and figuratively) and some of the elements of the setting(s) are just fabulous. The ‘City of Circles’ itself is something I don’t think my imagination could have cooked up in a million years. But when you’re stuck in an amazing setting with a character whose misery is starting to seep into your very pores it’s hard to appreciate that wonder.

It’s not that this book was unenjoyable. I’ve actually given it a pretty high star rating because I think the core concepts are sound and the story is beautiful. But I think that if you aren’t big on descriptive language and symbolism this book might become a bit too much to bear. I also don’t recommend reading it if you are already feeling a bit down as it might drag you further into a languor.

This review is coming off awfully negative isn’t it? It’s hard to explain, but what I’m trying to say is that this is a book for specific people in specific situations. I imagine that, had I read it six weeks prior, I would have had a very different experience. There’s something powerful in that, I suppose, the ability to create a book that could potentially go through that journey of grief with you?

I’ll be interested to hear what other people think of this book, those in different walks of life. So if you spy a review do point it out to me!

My rating: 4/5

If you think this might be a book for you City of Circles is available now!

By the way, I received a digital review copy of this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What say you? Is this something you would love or hate? Let me know in the comments below!


3 thoughts on “City of Circles, Jess Richards Book Review

Add yours

  1. I don’t think your review sounds overly negative. Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on why certain things didn’t work! I agree that circus books are getting way overdone but I still want to read them all! lol it’s an obsession. This one sounds really interesting! Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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