The Winter Freak Show by Daniel Parsons
Synopsis: A boy in Victorian England escapes his life in a workhouse, nearly dying of cold on London’s streets before begin rescued by a traveling circus. The circus is more than it first appears and the Ringmaster is hiding some pretty fantastic secrets. It begins as a story about a boy rescued from a miserable existence who is introduced into a world of wonder and quickly morphs into a murder mystery with the protagonist running out of time to save the world from life-altering consequences.
I am typically not excited about books that have to do with the circus. I know there is a whole group of people obsessed with freak shows and exploring circus dynamics. That’s not me. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It’s short, more of a novelette size but perfect for an afternoon of light reading. It’s definitely an unusual read but perfect for someone who wants a break from the regular.
Things I loved about this book:
The length. The story didn’t try to be longer than it needed to be and yet was able to take me to another world, let me taste the fruit it had to offer and then drop me back off to reality satisfied with the time I spent with it.
The pacing. The story had a lot of ground to cover in its’ 102 pages and wasted no time in moving through the story. At no point did it feel rushed.
It was unique. There are a lot of times when you’re reading a book, especially indie fantasy books, where you start to wonder if you’ve read it before. Because most authors are stuck re-using the same tropes and plots as well-known authors. This book definitely doesn’t do that, the idea is unique and fresh.
Although I loved the book and gladly give it four stars, there were a couple things I had issues with. Around the middle of the book, I began questioning the protagonists actions along with the actions of some of the other characters; Melvin and Nicko. Their choices didn’t make sense to me and caused me to lose interest. However, as I read I was pulled back in and completed the book feeling good about my choice in reading it. It is a strong four star book and I would be open to reading more books by the author. For someone who enjoys fantasy books that break new ground, it’s worth picking up.
How did Nicko not see that all the characters dying were from his naughty list? What was the need of holding the Freak Show when there was Christmas? How did Toby get fireworks and how did the elves know to come? Why did the police continue prosecuting Nicko when the abductions and murders continued after his arrest?
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