Circus of Wonders

Dear Reader,

The anticipation surrounding the release of this book, and the fame when it was published last month, was enough to rival that of main character Nellie Moon herself! I obviously could not help but metaphorically ‘attend the show’ to see for myself… and my goodness was it worth it! What a show indeed!

~ Fiction | Historical Fiction ~

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.


Vivid, sensory and fast paced – I could hardly tear my eyes from the page! The narrative sucks you into a whirlpool of suppressed emotions and wild dreams, in a nail biting battle for power at a time that lacked agency – with devastating consequences.

The narrative switches between three characters: Nell, Toby and Jasper. I loved the way the story unfolded through the interweaving of the three outlooks on events, and was hooked by the different ways each strive to control their own destinies….building to a tragic climax.

I especially loved the references to classic literature and real historic events and figures. Macneal’s portrayal of the Victorians obsession with ‘Freak Shows’, and the psychology of that obsession, was pitched against literature such as Shelly’s Frankenstein to a truly skilful edge.

Masterful. Compulsive. Intoxicating.

A definite one for the TBR’s fellow readers! Though if you have already read it then do drop me a line in the comments and tell me what you thought 🙂

Bookish wishes,

Meg xx

Thanks to Picador Books for sending a proof copy of this brilliant book to the booksellers at the store where I work – much appreciated.

Thanks also to Net Galley – I was lucky enough to be approved for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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