Title: The Circus of the Damned
Author: Cornelia Grey
Series: Deal with a Devil #2
Release Date: November 3rd 2014
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/M-M Romance
Magician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life conning drunkards in the seediest pubs in the darkest towns, careful to hide the true depths of his power. But when he spends a little too much time in Shadowsea and the infamous slumlord Count Reuben gets wind of his abilities, hiding within the Circus of the Damned may be Gilbert’s only chance at survival.
But there’s more to the Circus than meets the eye. Every time a performer dies, a new one must take his place, or the entire circus suffers the consequences. And while the handsome ringmaster Jesse isn’t one to coerce unwilling performers into giving up their souls to the devil, a recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need.
Yet the longer Gilbert stays with the Circus, the more danger he seems to bring them. Being with Jesse is more than Gilbert could have hoped for, but as Count Reuben’s men continue to search for Gilbert and the Circus loses another performer, they all face running out of time long before the Devil claims his due.
“If you never believe anything again in your life, believe this: if you join, you will remain with the circus until the day you die, and beyond that . . .Your soul will be damned for all eternity. There is no way out.”
The Circus of the Damned is one of the most original stories I read during 2014. Cornelia Grey creates a fantastical world, but there are echoes of Victorian society in which ‘freak’ shows were a regular occurrence.
Gilbert Blake is arrogant, selfish and a cheat, but most importantly, a true magician, We are introduced to him on the night he conjures a hen out of a gambler’s mouth and he is chased from the inn by the authority of Shadowsea, During his escape he runs into the path of Jesse, the ringmaster of the Circus and in Gilbert’s desperation he agrees to join the troupe. However, Gilbert fails to understand Jesse’s warning and attempts to escape his new home on many occasions, but on falling asleep, he always wakes up in his circus caravan. Finally, Gilbert accepts his life as a performer, discovering more about the handsome Jesse and the circumstances in which the circus was formed.
Initially, the reader thinks Jesse is the opposite of Gilbert. Jesse is protective of his friends, loyal, caring and a leader. Yet as we learn more about the circus we realise that Jesse’s selfishness and greed are keeping everyone captive.
As the relationship between Jesse and Gilbert develops we see a change in them both. Gilbert’s love for the ringmaster makes him realise that he can be a part of a family, however disjointed and Gilbert’s mask of arrogance slips away. His transformation is not completely evident until the conclusion of the novel, which is an emotional moment for us all.
Whilst the group of ‘freaks’ attempt to keep the Circus of the Damned going, they realise the danger they are in from the self-appointed leader of Shadowsea. From this, Cornelia Grey is able to build a tense situation in which we fear for those characters who have touched our hearts.
The Circus of the Damned is more compelling because of the uncertainty, romance and wonderful descriptions by the author. This is one story I could quite happily read a sequel to and think this will appeal to a variety of readers.