I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, NetGalley & Skyscape!
Title: Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond
Date of Publication: July 5th, 2016
Coincidentally, my first review for July fits my theme as a sequel, in this case to 2014’s Girl on a Wire. I’ve read glowing reviews of Gwenda Bond’s first book in this series, and looked forward to reading the follow-up through a new character’s eyes. All of the fascinating and wonderful things about the Cirque American are still here in full force, with the major players from book one coming back to play a central role in this story. Think Lola and the Boy Next Door with circus people and magicians – not just stage magicians, mind you, but real magic.
Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.
When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.
But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.
Unfortunately, the ‘magic’ of this circus sequel was lost on me. Not only was there very little circus description, but the whole thing felt less like reading a book and more like listening to my little sister describe her latest vacation. This is a common issue I have seen with first-person storytelling: instead of getting the full picture of the circus or the other characters in the book, we are seeing one person’s vision of what’s happening in front of her face, and then we’re in her head hearing what she thinks about it. Moira is a classically unreliable narrator who can’t be bothered to tell me what’s actually going on around her before getting into the “he said/she said.” Because of this issue, the book feels way too long, at nearly 400 pages of this nonsense:
“The knives formed a pretty, deadly heart shape. He took her hand, and she bowed, blushing. I bolted for the space in front of the next tent, my cheeks too. This was another excellent reminder that I wasn’t here for distractions like Dez. I was here to work. Dumb was dumb.”
Spoiler alert: She gets with the “distraction.” They stay together despite the odds, and despite me growling at the book, “He lied to you! Dump his ass! What happened to ‘dumb is dumb,’ huh, Moira? Don’t listen to him ‘Moy…’ you! What kind of nickname is ‘Moy,’ anyway?” Second spoiler: She isn’t there to work, she’s there to prove to her overbearing father that women can be magicians, too. Does that make this book feminist and inclusive? Disappointingly, not so much.
I gave this book 2 stars overall for weak storytelling, lack of character or world development, and for how bored I was after about halfway through. It’s not a good read when you spend the second half of the book waiting for it to be over. If you really liked Girl on a Wire and want to see what happened to your favorite characters, it might be worth picking up, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. If you really want to read a quality circus tale, pick up The Night Circus as soon as you can get your hands on it (and check out my review here!)