cover image The Emerald Circus

The Emerald Circus

Jane Yolen. Tachyon, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61696-273-9

This slight collection contains several very strong stories but is weakened by its overarching theme: all of the pieces are riffs on famous fairy tales, or on the lives of writers or famous historical personages, and there just isn’t enough variation in the subject matter. So, for instance, Yolen provides five separate versions of Alice in Wonderland: one (“Wonder Land”) is a vignette, two are poems, and the other two are decent stories but, in this context, feel somewhat redundant. The best pieces here, such as “Evian Steel,” a genuinely subversive and affecting take on Arthurian legend, stand with the finest of Yolen’s work, but these tales are readily available elsewhere: “Sister Emily’s Lightship,” a justly famous story of an encounter between Emily Dickinson and an alien, has already been the title piece in a separate Yolen collection. This book, therefore, is both full of gorgeous and masterly writing and entirely inessential. Yolen is a prolific and recognized writer who has written more than 350 books for teens and adults (this is her first adult book in several years) and won, among others, the Caldecott and Nebula Awards; her many fans will happily pick this up. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (Nov.)