An earnest but unfocused glimpse behind the curtain of Barnum’s career.



Noyes (Tooth and Claw, 2019, etc.) explores P.T. Barnum’s career from the perspectives of his family members, performers, and acquaintances.

Barnum, the “Prince of Humbug,” rose to fame by exhibiting—and exploiting—a collection of human and animal “wonders.” But here, Jumbo the elephant and the Fejee mermaid aren’t the showman’s only “creatures.” In 11 intertwined, third-person stories spanning from 1842 to 1891, the author imagines the perspectives of those in Barnum’s narcissistic shadow—from his belittled, overwhelmed wives and overlooked daughters to such celebrated performers as the little person Charlie Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, who pays for his fame by losing his identity. The disparate cast is united by similar themes: loneliness; the simultaneously empowering and disempowering nature of performing; and the pressures of living in the public eye. Though the stories create a vivid, dark impression of Barnum’s personality, many other characters’ development is shallow and disjointed. Further details of characters’ lives are scattered among other characters’ stories, and keeping track of the crowded cast across a multigenerational time span is an occasionally taxing, ultimately underwhelming exercise. Several characters’ fates are rather abruptly summarized, and expository prose and dialogue dull poignant emotions and backstories. A slightly supernatural plot thread is left dangling. Most characters appear to be white. Archival photographs introduce each story.

An earnest but unfocused glimpse behind the curtain of Barnum’s career. (author’s note, image credits) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5981-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)


From the Six of Crows series , Vol. 2

This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.

It's time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can't bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can't read due to a print disability; Wylan's brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina's national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam's vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative.

How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end? (glossary) (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-213-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in.


From the Folk of the Air series , Vol. 1

Black is back with another dark tale of Faerie, this one set in Faerie and launching a new trilogy.

Jude—broken, rebuilt, fueled by anger and a sense of powerlessness—has never recovered from watching her adoptive Faerie father murder her parents. Human Jude (whose brown hair curls and whose skin color is never described) both hates and loves Madoc, whose murderous nature is true to his Faerie self and who in his way loves her. Brought up among the Gentry, Jude has never felt at ease, but after a decade, Faerie has become her home despite the constant peril. Black’s latest looks at nature and nurture and spins a tale of court intrigue, bloodshed, and a truly messed-up relationship that might be the saving of Jude and the titular prince, who, like Jude, has been shaped by the cruelties of others. Fierce and observant Jude is utterly unaware of the currents that swirl around her. She fights, plots, even murders enemies, but she must also navigate her relationship with her complex family (human, Faerie, and mixed). This is a heady blend of Faerie lore, high fantasy, and high school drama, dripping with description that brings the dangerous but tempting world of Faerie to life.

Black is building a complex mythology; now is a great time to tune in. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-31027-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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