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The Circus Rose

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A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family. Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamental A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family. Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes. In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.


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A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family. Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamental A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family. Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes. In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

30 review for The Circus Rose

  1. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    Thank you, Clarion Books, for my ARC! I have been anticipating this for a long time!!! Original: For Your Consideration: ~ Queer Retelling of Snow White and Rose Red . ~ Twins are awesome. ~ A Circus family. ~ Giant bear and big top on cover. ~ Battle against religious extremists. Thank you, Clarion Books, for my ARC! I have been anticipating this for a long time!!! Original: For Your Consideration: ~ Queer Retelling of Snow White and Rose Red . ~ Twins are awesome. ~ A Circus family. ~ Giant bear and big top on cover. ~ Battle against religious extremists.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell is a queer young adult retelling of one of the most popular fairytales of modern times: the cautionary tale of Snow White. When it was described as ”perfect” in the description I had no idea it would not only meet my expectations but surpass them, too, bringing a renowned story bang up to date and endearing it to the minds of a whole new generation and important minority. I tend to pick YA reads carefully but I would say if you're a fairytale fiend this is a won The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell is a queer young adult retelling of one of the most popular fairytales of modern times: the cautionary tale of Snow White. When it was described as ”perfect” in the description I had no idea it would not only meet my expectations but surpass them, too, bringing a renowned story bang up to date and endearing it to the minds of a whole new generation and important minority. I tend to pick YA reads carefully but I would say if you're a fairytale fiend this is a wonderful read from start to finish as it encapsulates all that makes the original so mesmerising but the author manages to also make it her own and so very unique. It’s the bewitching, potent mix of social commentary, thrills and danger, engaging characterisation and a rather hefty slice of enchanting escapism that had me riveted from the moment I picked it up. Cornwell hasn't shied away from infusing the story with bold, timely, ripped from the headlines issues but addresses them all in such a subtle and intelligent fashion that everything works so beautifully; often heavy, preachy topics are approached with a refreshingly deft and subtle eye and that's just one of a multitude of reasons why this culminated in such an intense, compulsive and gripping read. Never once did these topics dilute the fun and magical aspects of this superbly written piece. It was also a pleasant surprise for a YA retelling to actually weave a more detail-orientated narrative than the original as that is not usually the case at all. I absolutely devoured this akin to Snow White taking a tender bite out of her poison apple and cannot recommend it highly enough to young adult fantasy fans who appreciate sophistication and interplay between real-world themes and those who revel in the mysterious allure brought about by beguiling fairy tale worlds both old and new. There is certainly much to love and sink your teeth into here, and if this tickles your fancy Ms Cornwell has penned a few other retellings in the same vein as this; that's exactly where I am heading right now. Exquisite. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Clarion Books for an ARC.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katerina Kondrenko

    4 out of 10 Okay, the language and atmosphere are WOW. But what I've just read?..

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cande

    I was incredibly excited for The Circus Rose when it was announced, I very much enjoyed Betsy Cornwell’s debut when I read it the first time. And this book is set in the same world, where magic and technology coexist. Sadly, the things I liked from Mechanica and its sequel, Venturess, weren’t there in The Circus Rose. Mechanica handled, in my opinion, very well emotional abuse and queerplatonic relationships. The characters were charming and the world-building, the conversations about technology I was incredibly excited for The Circus Rose when it was announced, I very much enjoyed Betsy Cornwell’s debut when I read it the first time. And this book is set in the same world, where magic and technology coexist. Sadly, the things I liked from Mechanica and its sequel, Venturess, weren’t there in The Circus Rose. Mechanica handled, in my opinion, very well emotional abuse and queerplatonic relationships. The characters were charming and the world-building, the conversations about technology and magic, had me at the edge of my seat. So let’s start there because I really didn’t like this story BUT I went with all the good intentions, hoping to really like it at least. It was a disappointing read and this review, although negative, deeply pains me. But god, sometimes gays can’t save terrible plots. Read my full review on my blog, Latinx Magic

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Fetters

    "No memory is ever quite as you left it, no matter how carefully you lay it away." Lately, I've been such a whore for circus books. If it has something to do with a circus or an act or even a family, I'm all in. And once I saw this book, I knew that I needed this in my life. ALA had my back with this book. What draws you in first is the mesmerizing cover. The colors and the art is so spectacular that it's one to pine over. I'm in awe of this cover but I just wish the story was just as amazing as "No memory is ever quite as you left it, no matter how carefully you lay it away." Lately, I've been such a whore for circus books. If it has something to do with a circus or an act or even a family, I'm all in. And once I saw this book, I knew that I needed this in my life. ALA had my back with this book. What draws you in first is the mesmerizing cover. The colors and the art is so spectacular that it's one to pine over. I'm in awe of this cover but I just wish the story was just as amazing as the cover is. The story starts off with a loud bang but loses its steam pretty early on. The writing flows beautifully but the story itself isn't something that sticks with you. It took a little too long for the author to get where she actually wanted it to go and then it abruptly ends. The big mystery was there and in a blink, it was all over. Circus life, the atmosphere, and the worldbuilding were all superb. She could have done just that and I would have been content. But the plot was something to sleep through. Not much actually happened and I wanted some crazy twisted mystery but we got nowhere near that. But Bear is the character that will melt your heart and we need a prequel to this book. The Circus Rose had the synopsis to be one of the best circus books that I've ever read but it fell short. This is a book that still needs some work but I'm glad that I got the opportunity to read it. I would suggest people pick this book up because the circus is life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    My circus family. I missed them so much, and I mourned them. And by heaven and earth, I was going to get them back. On my blog. Rep: lesbian mc, wlw li, bi mc, nonbinary li, bi side characters, side polyamory Galley provided by publisher Sometimes you open a book, and you only need a couple of pages to realise it’s not going to be for you. in this case, it was the third chapter that did it for me. Because this book alternates POV by alternative between poetry and prose. And it does not do it My circus family. I missed them so much, and I mourned them. And by heaven and earth, I was going to get them back. On my blog. Rep: lesbian mc, wlw li, bi mc, nonbinary li, bi side characters, side polyamory Galley provided by publisher Sometimes you open a book, and you only need a couple of pages to realise it’s not going to be for you. in this case, it was the third chapter that did it for me. Because this book alternates POV by alternative between poetry and prose. And it does not do it well. The Circus Rose is a retelling of Snow White & Rose Red, a fairytale I am happy to admit I have not a clue of what it’s about. In this world, Snow White and Rose Red are twins, Ivory and Rosie. They work in a circus, run by their mother. Ivory helps backstage, while Rosie has an act as an acrobat, with Bear, who is, as the name suggests, a bear. Ivory and Rosie have different fathers, both of whom wanted to marry their mother, and both of whom were refused by her. But now the circus is back in their town and Ivory and Rosie must contend with their reappearance, as well as the disruption caused by a fundamentalist church. First, the major issue I found with this book. The poetry/prose dichotomy just doesn’t work for me here. I know good books where the whole thing is told in poetry and it’s done well, but it isn’t here. The poetry is bland and feels more like sentences sliced up oddly rather than being actually poetic. Like, I would argue learn how to write poetry for poetry’s sake before trying to tell a story through it because it’s hard. So it’s understandable, in a way, that it went wrong here. Also, slightly annoyingly, it means that Rosie isn’t nearly so central as Ivory in the narrative, and I kind of wanted them to be more balanced in that respect (especially with the whole storyline surrounding Bear). I think this also possibly contributed to the book feeling slow-paced. Because not much was happening in the poetry chapters (bar occasionally repeated exactly what was said in the prose chapters, which slowed the story in itself) and the first half of the book seemed to be dedicated to setting up for the second half. Like, the plot didn’t kick in until halfway, and they didn’t start to do anything about it until three quarters in. But what makes it most disappointing is that the last quarter was good. I enjoyed it, but if it was supposed to be at all like a mystery, I’m not buying it because they seemed to know exactly who was behind the disappearances with hardly a thought. Finally, a little point on the worldbuilding. This isn’t a sequel to anything, as far as I can tell, but it’s set in the same world as another series by the author, and I found that sometimes impacted on the worldbuilding. Like there would be points where I felt the lack of having read those books to understand what was going on. Not often, mind, but enough. So, in the end, what I’m left with is yet another book that I was disappointed by. It was okay, but it was never really more than that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - Clarion Books in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. The Circus Rose was breathtakingly brilliant. A mix of Water For Elephants and The Prestige except for the fact that it involves a tightrope act instead of a grand finale involving an elephant. A tightrope act that cost her everything calling it a disaster. With politics taking over the major d This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - Clarion Books in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. The Circus Rose was breathtakingly brilliant. A mix of Water For Elephants and The Prestige except for the fact that it involves a tightrope act instead of a grand finale involving an elephant. A tightrope act that cost her everything calling it a disaster. With politics taking over the major decisions and costing everyone everything, a rampage of social in justice comes into play that could play a major role in saving the circus and doing what's right in the world with the help of Ivory, her magician, and even A BEAR! I could not get enough of this book and I know it will circulate very well with our YA collection and our YA community. Our teen book club will sure love this book too. We will consider adding this title to our YA collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Full Review at Novellives.Com This shouldn't be starred. Seeing the ratings plummet for Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell plummet when I went to update my progress on Goodreads, really makes my heart break. It shouldn't be the case. I truly feel it is more a case of bad marketing, than anything. This isn't a YA book. I don't blame the majority of YA readers to be bored by it or feel like nothing happened or that it was slow. For most adults and even teenagers that is fair. If you take out the scene i Full Review at Novellives.Com This shouldn't be starred. Seeing the ratings plummet for Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell plummet when I went to update my progress on Goodreads, really makes my heart break. It shouldn't be the case. I truly feel it is more a case of bad marketing, than anything. This isn't a YA book. I don't blame the majority of YA readers to be bored by it or feel like nothing happened or that it was slow. For most adults and even teenagers that is fair. If you take out the scene in the library between Tam and Ivory, this could be a fantastic guided reading book for elementary school. That has nothing to do with the Queer representation. There aren't any elementary school, guided reading books with kids ripping each other's clothes off. Since that part of the story isn't going anywhere, this is a solid Middle School book for struggling to on-level readers. You have the representation. There are two formats, a wonderful story, a mystery and brilliantly painted characters.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Knight

    I read Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell years ago when it was first released and I loved it so much. I hadn't gotten around to picking up her other releases but when I seen the synopsis for The Circus Rose, I knew I had to read it and I was so excited. I loved the writing style so much. It was beautiful and the alternating styles of the chapters, one character's perspective is written in poetry, was really interesting. I didn't love the poetry chapters but they were very unique. The one thing that I f I read Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell years ago when it was first released and I loved it so much. I hadn't gotten around to picking up her other releases but when I seen the synopsis for The Circus Rose, I knew I had to read it and I was so excited. I loved the writing style so much. It was beautiful and the alternating styles of the chapters, one character's perspective is written in poetry, was really interesting. I didn't love the poetry chapters but they were very unique. The one thing that I feel really holds this book back is how aimlessly the plot wanders and nothing really happens throughout the book. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the actual plot is because there isn't one. The writing style and the fun atmosphere of the setting gives this book life but the complete lack of plot drags it down.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeimy

    My first retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red" was Anna-Marie McLemore's Blanca & Roja, which is interesting because both of my experiences with this tale have been queer retellings. While I enjoyed McLemore's version, Cornwell's is superior in its plot and message. I loved that Ivory spoke in prose and that poetry was the perfect vehicle for Rose's ethereal thoughts. I loved how unabashedly queer the book is. I loved that it introduced new gender-free third-person pronouns and it wasn't a big My first retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red" was Anna-Marie McLemore's Blanca & Roja, which is interesting because both of my experiences with this tale have been queer retellings. While I enjoyed McLemore's version, Cornwell's is superior in its plot and message. I loved that Ivory spoke in prose and that poetry was the perfect vehicle for Rose's ethereal thoughts. I loved how unabashedly queer the book is. I loved that it introduced new gender-free third-person pronouns and it wasn't a big deal. And even though I was a bit triggered by the religious persecution (I was raised Catholic), I actually appreciated that the world Cornwell created was not utopic in its acceptance of those seen as "other." I am not a fan of fantasy, but I devoured this book and wholeheartedly recommend it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kal ★ Reader Voracious

    Hi, yes. I am here for this queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” and need it in my hands immediately. Thank you. Blog | Twitter | Pinterest Hi, yes. I am here for this queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” and need it in my hands immediately. Thank you. Blog | Twitter | Pinterest

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bo0kSLoth

    Man, this is a hard one for me. On one hand, the world-building and descriptions are 5 stars. On the other hand, the plot is thin in some places (almost forced to move the story along); What could have been interesting is glossed over and other parts tend to drag leading to a lot of lull in the story. I put this story down several times over a two month period. I read twenty other books in-between starting and finishing this book. At the beginning of the book, you think the random background in Man, this is a hard one for me. On one hand, the world-building and descriptions are 5 stars. On the other hand, the plot is thin in some places (almost forced to move the story along); What could have been interesting is glossed over and other parts tend to drag leading to a lot of lull in the story. I put this story down several times over a two month period. I read twenty other books in-between starting and finishing this book. At the beginning of the book, you think the random background information that takes up the first 80 or so pages will help with the plot later on but really it doesn't. A lot of it could have been left out and other parts of it fleshed out to make a better rounded plot. I also felt like this book was confusing with two different POVs between the twins. The poetry style of Rosie kept throwing me off. I honestly thought that Ivory was saying a poem about Rosie until it finally dawned on me it was Rosie's POV. The author also uses these weird androgynous Fey pronouns "fer" and "fe" when writing about the Faerie magician. I kept thinking there were typos or something. It was a fail. I understand that the being didn't identify with neither male nor female and it was too informal but switching back and forth between the two forms was just confusing. Why do most YA books feel like they have to cover EVERY demographic? It seems like lately every YA book has to have some character in the story that meets LGBT representation. In this story Ivory loves men, but once she meets the beautiful, androgynous Fey (who is "no more male than I am") she recognizes something. It's like it just fills in a check-box (can't use Rosie's sexual preference wasn't fleshed out as much so have to tweak Ivory and make it work). It's almost like too many ideas in a first-draft. I can hear the conversation. "Oh I know, let's have one sister white and one brown to cover the racial demographic. With two different fathers to get the kink factor. Wait I know, make one a lesbian and the other straight -- no better yet make her bi and fall in love to androgynous hermaphroditic Fey to make the LGBT group read. Add a dancing bear 'cause, you know, it's a circus. Hehe with a robot arm! What!?! Now, that just crazy. Okay, okay, no robot arm, but s bearded lady." I feel like it had some real potential, but the plot got away from the author. ** I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review. **

  13. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    The cover artist is the real winner with this book. The cover grabbed my attention and I requested this book from Netgalley. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thought this was going to be a fun book, but found it to be a writer’s exercise in social justice instead. The characters existed merely to exist as LGBTQ representation and the plot was forced forward just to give them something to do every now and then. I felt like the author was inspired by Emily Morgenstern, but fo The cover artist is the real winner with this book. The cover grabbed my attention and I requested this book from Netgalley. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thought this was going to be a fun book, but found it to be a writer’s exercise in social justice instead. The characters existed merely to exist as LGBTQ representation and the plot was forced forward just to give them something to do every now and then. I felt like the author was inspired by Emily Morgenstern, but found the book fell short of the inspiration. There was some nice imagery and wording but little else to recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    C. S.

    DNF around the 40 page mark. I was really interested in the concept of this retelling, and thought it had a lot of promise, but several elements didn't end up working for me. The fact that one of the POVs was entirely in verse is cool, don't get me wrong, but it yanked me right out of the story every single time. I also felt like the pacing in the 40 or so pages I read was a little wonky. I'm not a strict adherent of show-don't-tell, but if you're going to tell me a story, I need to fall so deeply DNF around the 40 page mark. I was really interested in the concept of this retelling, and thought it had a lot of promise, but several elements didn't end up working for me. The fact that one of the POVs was entirely in verse is cool, don't get me wrong, but it yanked me right out of the story every single time. I also felt like the pacing in the 40 or so pages I read was a little wonky. I'm not a strict adherent of show-don't-tell, but if you're going to tell me a story, I need to fall so deeply in love with your prose that I don't actually care if anything happens in the story. While the writing was perfectly fine here, it didn't quite reach that level for me. If you're a fan of novels in verse, fairytale retellings, and kind of experimental structures, give it a try! It may be what you're looking for.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brianna - Coffee Books and Bullet Journals

    I am so utterly confused by this book... the writing and atmosphere were beautiful but it lacked so much substance that once we got into what I can only assume was the plot, I got bored. I have no idea how it is a Snow White retelling. I’m just so lost. This is disappointing to me because it was a highly anticipated release for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Levi van Zyl

    2.5 stars???? 3 stars??? I don’t know. This book really was....something. It sure was absolutely something. I am sure that I have read. Something. The writing was excellent. I could have read about Rosie and Ivory for ages, and would have preferred that to the rushed and hastily thought out plot shoved into the last few chapters of the book. It’s 270 pages long yet the mystery and sinister ongoings promised on the back cover only hop in at around page 200. And even then I’m left with more questi 2.5 stars???? 3 stars??? I don’t know. This book really was....something. It sure was absolutely something. I am sure that I have read. Something. The writing was excellent. I could have read about Rosie and Ivory for ages, and would have preferred that to the rushed and hastily thought out plot shoved into the last few chapters of the book. It’s 270 pages long yet the mystery and sinister ongoings promised on the back cover only hop in at around page 200. And even then I’m left with more questions than answers and staring at the book like, “yo. Actually. What is happening right now?” I would have much preferred a novel that uses Ivory and Rosie’s voice to narrate how hard it is to run a circus and the complications, one of which could’ve been the church. There was really like no need to do a mystery here because it happened and was over in like 30 pages and left me confused and wondering why we needed that. We also didn’t really need Rosie’s POV either? It’s told in verse, whole Ivory’s is told in prose. I love novels in verse but Rosie’s are so short and few, and we get so much of her through ivory, that there’s almost no reason to have her view. I came out of this much more invested in Ivory than Rosie because we get so little of Rosie and Ivory narrates all of the important things. Like. The writing and world-building and relationship building was fabulous! Great! But the rest of it had me saying WTF the entire time. I wish this book had stuck to the first 150 pages of talking about the hardships of the circus and a romance, because that, compared with Cornwell’s writing style, was so interesting!! Instead it has a half baked mystery that made me want to halfway chuck this book across the room. TL;DR: the writing was good but everything else was slapped together with elmer’s glue and left me wondering what the fuck I just read

  17. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Fondriest

    While The Circus Rose's intriguing synopsis promises circus magic, atmosphere, and found family, it fails to produce an interesting plot or provide characters the reader cares about. The plot lags; there is simultaneously too much going on and not enough fleshed out. We are rushed through some parts of the story that had potential to be interesting and further develop our characters, only to dally in parts where absolutely nothing happens. I felt like I was reading a first draft that needed seve While The Circus Rose's intriguing synopsis promises circus magic, atmosphere, and found family, it fails to produce an interesting plot or provide characters the reader cares about. The plot lags; there is simultaneously too much going on and not enough fleshed out. We are rushed through some parts of the story that had potential to be interesting and further develop our characters, only to dally in parts where absolutely nothing happens. I felt like I was reading a first draft that needed several more rounds of edits to pare down extraneous information and plot points and fully flesh out the circus, relationships, and religious conflict. While this chalk full of diversity, that alone doesn't make a book good; characters of varying sexual and gender identities don't make up for a lackluster plot, atmosphere, or shoddy world building. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are, as always, my own.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    The Circus Rose was a breath of fresh air, IMO. It was written in alternating POV's between twins Ivory and Rosie. I really loved that writing style and one POV was told in a regular writing style and the other written in a poetry writing style. There were times when the storyline either had a lull or got a little confusing for me, but I still overall really loved the story and characters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    riverprincess ✨

    Me: h- This book: Snow White but it’s gay, for fans of Leigh Bardugo, and a pretty cover. Me: I’ve only had ‘The Circus Rose’ for a day and a half but if anything happened to them I’d kill everyone in this room and then myself.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melissa (YA Book Shelf)

    I love fairytale retellings, in general, and “Snow White and Rose Red” was a story I read and reread often as a child, so as soon as I heard about The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell, I knew I had to read it. It’s told from the dual POVs of Rosie, an out lesbian who is neurodivergent, and her twin sister Ivory, who has always been attracted to boys, but she comes to realize that she’s on the Bi+ / pansexual spectrum after meeting Tam, a nonbinary fey who joins the circus. This queer retelling of “S I love fairytale retellings, in general, and “Snow White and Rose Red” was a story I read and reread often as a child, so as soon as I heard about The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell, I knew I had to read it. It’s told from the dual POVs of Rosie, an out lesbian who is neurodivergent, and her twin sister Ivory, who has always been attracted to boys, but she comes to realize that she’s on the Bi+ / pansexual spectrum after meeting Tam, a nonbinary fey who joins the circus. This queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red,” in which Ivory and Rosie battle evil religious extremists to save their both their loves and their chosen circus family, should be on your to be read list—seriously. This book is breathtakingly beautiful, and I think that the mediocre reviews on Goodreads come down to not getting it into the hands of enough queer reviewers and readers being unfamiliar with the fairytale on which it was based and mistaking it for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Give it a chance, you won't be disappointed. Rosie’s sections are all written in free verse, which just beg to be read aloud. Rosie is a performer—the highlight of The Circus Rose’s act—and also has the tendency to withdraw inside herself, so the format suits her voice. Ivory’s sections in the narrative, however, are written in prose, which works for her logical, ordered character. Unlike her sister, she prefers to be behind the scenes as a stagehand or at engineering school. Don’t think for a second that her story is logical to the point that it's devoid of beauty and passion. If you’re looking for a very queer YA book, you need to pick this one up. Betsy Cornwell is an out bisexual woman, and she uses both she and they pronouns, so it's an own voices book. In addition to Rosie and Ivory's explicit queerness, Bear, Rosie’s companion, is a princess stuck in the body of a male bear, so a lot of Bear’s story relates to the experience of trans people. Rosie and Ivory’s mama isn’t necessarily queer—we only know about her attraction to me—but both she and the fey community in general are all represented as polyamorous. Finally, Tam use the new-to-me pronouns fe and fer to demonstrate fer gender as neither solely male nor female, but something in between. Whereas many queer narratives only show the queer characters holding hands with their significant other or kissing at the very end of the book, I particularly liked the fact that it was a really sex positive story. Ivory begins to explore her sexual fluidity with Tam early on, and in doing so, the kissing takes on a passion that I’ve not often seen in any YA novel. Moreover, later, there is a scene between them that takes place in the stacks of a library run by the Brethren—a religious organization that thinks everything about the circus people is sinful—and Ivory knows in her heart that she’s done nothing wrong, even though she’s aware that the Brethren wouldn’t see it the same way. It's a shame-free story. Cornwell creates a safe space for all readers, especially queer ones, that is completely devoid of the shame that Christianity puts on people around their sexuality. In The Circus Rose, the main conflict is between the circus itself, which serves as a chosen family for many of the performers and stagehands, and the Brethren, who deem everything and anything one would find at the circus as sinful. To show this as wrong, Cornwell turns dichotomy between light and dark, white and black, on its head. Yes, the Brethren are still represented in light, but it’s given a sinister and clinical overtone. By contrast, the reds, blacks, and shadows of the circus have a protective quality for its inhabitants. Rosie, for example, needs the darkness to heal after an event damages her health, something that she couldn’t do in the bright lights of the hospital setting. The Circus Rose is a beautiful, queer story that will create a safe space for anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community, even those who are possibly doubly oppressed, like Tam was by his non-human status, whether you are familiar with “Snow White and Rose Red” or not.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martha Sullivan

    I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley for this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The first thing that grabs you about The Circus Rose is the combination of storytelling styles. The book alternates between prose narration from Ivory and verse narration from twin sister Rosie - like the sisters, Ivory's portion contains more exposition and relation of events (she is the engineer, technically minded and concerned with how things work) while Rosie's poetry fills in the emotion and offers I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley for this book in exchange for an unbiased review. The first thing that grabs you about The Circus Rose is the combination of storytelling styles. The book alternates between prose narration from Ivory and verse narration from twin sister Rosie - like the sisters, Ivory's portion contains more exposition and relation of events (she is the engineer, technically minded and concerned with how things work) while Rosie's poetry fills in the emotion and offers a reactive interpretation (she is the performer, romantically minded and full of feelings). The story itself is supposedly a retelling of the Snow White, Rose Red fairy tale, but there are many strands of different fairy tales woven in, which end up creating something new that also feels familiar. The events of the book - sisters in a travelling circus that ends up in confrontation with an extremist religious group - are a showcase for a wonderful cast of characters, from the twins themselves to Rosie's constant companion Bear (a literal bear...or is he?), to their mother, a former Bearded Lady and now Ringmaster, to the actual performers of the circus. My personal favorites were the Dancing Boys, a group unapologetically sensual, and the magician Tam, an agender elfin character who becomes a love interest. In amongst the traditional fairy tale tropes Cornwell weaves another story about sexuality and gender, and about assumptions related therein. The plot does meander in the first half, and the ending felt a bit rushed; I felt the pacing could have been a bit more even spread. But I was sold on the concept, and if that's what brings you to this book, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    The premise underlying Betsy Corwell's The Circus Rose is engaging. Imagine an Earth-like world where religious fundamentalists fight against what they call "lies"—which include everything from fiction to magic to, you guessed it, circuses. Now imagine a circus traveling by air ship, run by a bearded woman whose twin daughters each have different fathers, featuring a chorus line of dancing boys who incite desire among audiences of all sexual proclivities, and a faerie who is both a magician and The premise underlying Betsy Corwell's The Circus Rose is engaging. Imagine an Earth-like world where religious fundamentalists fight against what they call "lies"—which include everything from fiction to magic to, you guessed it, circuses. Now imagine a circus traveling by air ship, run by a bearded woman whose twin daughters each have different fathers, featuring a chorus line of dancing boys who incite desire among audiences of all sexual proclivities, and a faerie who is both a magician and double-gendered. One of the twin daughters dreams of becoming an engineer; the other is a circus performer whose closet companion is a performing bear. When the circus is burned to the ground and then its performers and staff begin disappearing, it is up the the would-be-engineer twin, Ivory, to figure out what is happening and to rescue those she loves. Yes, there is a lot going on in this book and it is peopled with interesting characters. The plot, however is less complex than the context in which it's set. It begins slowly, then races to a too-easy conclusion at the book's end. If you love plot-driven narrative, The Circus Rose may disappoint you. If you enjoy fiction that creates and sustains interesting worlds and charaters, you should find The Circus Rose an enjoyable read. I received a free electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. The opinions are my own.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Haley Campbell

    I loved the concept of this story! The writing was beautiful and atmospheric. The setting was compelling and mysterious. It’s told from alternating POV - Ivory and Rosie. I had a really hard time connecting with Rosie’s POV as it was told in poetry. The poetry didn’t really seem to flow... it felt more like thought fragments and sentences chopped in half. Ivory’s perspective was easier to connect to and is where most of the story is told but, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I *need* dia I loved the concept of this story! The writing was beautiful and atmospheric. The setting was compelling and mysterious. It’s told from alternating POV - Ivory and Rosie. I had a really hard time connecting with Rosie’s POV as it was told in poetry. The poetry didn’t really seem to flow... it felt more like thought fragments and sentences chopped in half. Ivory’s perspective was easier to connect to and is where most of the story is told but, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I *need* dialogue. The vast majority of this was narrative and description, which was beautifully written, but made it hard for me to focus. ⁣ I loved the openness and exploration of the characters in regards to their sexuality and relationships. I did feel that the world building was a bit lacking, making it hard to understand where some people where coming from and how things worked in their world. Finally, the ending felt a bit rushed.⁣ Personally, I felt major The Night Circus vibes from this book. I didn’t dislike it by any means, it just wasn’t for me. ⁣

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie P.

    Blog ✍ | Facebook 👩 | Twitter 🐦 | Instagram 📸 Clocking in at around 300 pages, this book is a quick read with a fast paced plot! This is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red with several fun twists and turns along the way! Twin sisters raised in a circus, one a performer and one a behind the scenes engineer, take on religious extremists and fight to save the people they love and their circus family. Great representation of gender identities in this book and nominal use of correct pronouns for c Blog ✍ | Facebook 👩 | Twitter 🐦 | Instagram 📸 Clocking in at around 300 pages, this book is a quick read with a fast paced plot! This is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red with several fun twists and turns along the way! Twin sisters raised in a circus, one a performer and one a behind the scenes engineer, take on religious extremists and fight to save the people they love and their circus family. Great representation of gender identities in this book and nominal use of correct pronouns for characters who do not identify as CIS. Lots of action, fun magic, and an interesting world packed into this novel! And look at that cover! This is a great Own Voices story that I highly recommend! This is a great book for readers who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Mackenzi Lee, and Laini Taylor! I received a galley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Clarion Books and Edelweiss+ for this opportunity

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sam (Hissing Potatoes)

    This book had a lot of good things to say about love, family, identity, and religious hypocrisy. I can see it resonating with some readers. For me, the execution was subpar, especially compared to Cornwell's other books. Rosie's poetry chapters added nothing, just repeated what we learned from Ivory's chapters and thus bloated the book and slowed the pace. Ivory's internalizations seemed much more juvenile (and expositional) than her actions and age warranted. Lots of fairytale elements were spat This book had a lot of good things to say about love, family, identity, and religious hypocrisy. I can see it resonating with some readers. For me, the execution was subpar, especially compared to Cornwell's other books. Rosie's poetry chapters added nothing, just repeated what we learned from Ivory's chapters and thus bloated the book and slowed the pace. Ivory's internalizations seemed much more juvenile (and expositional) than her actions and age warranted. Lots of fairytale elements were spattered in without actually exploring them in any kind of depth or coherency. The author clearly tried for a poetic prose style but didn't take it far enough to succeed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karla Brading

    The writing is exceptionally beautiful. But the plot was severely lacking in bones. Masses of queer touches, and yet, that's all they ever were. Touches. It needed more depth. It was very much a 'just accept this throwaway comment about a grandiose concept.' If it had been richer, I would have given this 5 stars. The story was almost there. Unfortunately I came away a little bewildered.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emily Forsyth

    Non-binary love interest!!! Anything with non-binary characters makes my heart happy. Also background poly relationship 👌🏼 This book was hella queer and really good!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. This novel evokes magic and magical realism to tell a story of family, prejudice, and finding your place in the world. The story is engaging and the characters are very realistic, but what struck me most what how inclusive the book was, with characters from multiple races, genders and sexual orientations. It was great to read something with so much diversity inherent to the plot.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Impressively terribly written, tbh. (view spoiler)[But please don't fuck in the library. (hide spoiler)] Impressively terribly written, tbh. (view spoiler)[But please don't fuck in the library. (hide spoiler)]

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heidi 'Randombookwitch'

    A sweet folkloric tale. I enjoyed this book although it was a quick read and light on details

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