cover image The Circus Rose

The Circus Rose

Betsy Cornwell. Clarion, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-3286-3950-9

In chapters that alternate between prose and poetry, Cornwell (The Forest Queen) retells “Snow White and Rose Red,” placing the classic fairy tale against a lushly imagined circus backdrop. Rosie and Ivory, 17-year-old twins named for their hair color and born of different fathers, have spent their lives touring with the Circus Rose, which their bearded-lady mother founded. When the girls and circus return to their birthplace, Port’s End, they discover that a new strain of religious extremism is infecting the city and gaining power over the populace. After a blaze destroys the circus, Ivory, who prefers the shadows to the stage, must take a leadership role and work to recover her vanished family. A range of relationships appears throughout: the girls’ parents form a polyamorous interracial triad, Ivory becomes involved with a nonbinary Fey character, and Rosie, who is queer, enters a romance with an enigmatic bear. Though the plot meanders, the story tackles crucial themes—including the importance of found family and the dangers of religious fundamentalism—while navigating complex familial relationships and delivering a rich atmosphere. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (June)