I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.
Skycircus by Peter Bunzl, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
This is the third installment in the Cogheart series, following the original Cogheart and its sequel Moonlocket.
I loved both the first two books, Cogheart itself especially, and was so excited for this, so I have no idea how it got so buried in my TBR (there’s a WWW Wednesday post from October 24th last tsar saying I’m planning to read it as one of my nexf few books! Past me – what happened?!)
But, I finally read it as part of #Believathon this month and it was worth the wait! It was also the first time I’ve buddy-read a book, as Amy and I read it alongside each other, and I really enjoyed being able to share our thoughts and talk about what was happening as I went along.
One of the things I liked best was that, although it rejoins Lily, Robert and Malkin from the first two books, and does follow on from what’s happened to them previously and, in particular Lily’s past, it would be very easy to read this having not read the first two books, or to read it and go back to them. It works really well as a stand alone adventure, though of course it is even better if you’ve already read the others!
Here, we meet Lily on her birthday as a mysterious parcel arrives for her seemingly out if nowhere containing her mother’s old notebook and an invitation to the circus, where she’s excited to see there’s another ‘hybrid’ – part human, part mechanical – and she has wings, just like the work she’s discovering her mother was interested in. Could this be a link to her past and getting to know her mother like she never had chance to?
Of course, when they arrive at the circus, all is not as it seems and Lily, Robert and Malkin soon find themselves captured and whisked away as part of an unhappy circus crew with a sinister, and it transpires all too familiar leader. It’s up to them to bring the hybrids and humans together to overcome those in control, escape and restore the Skycircus to its happier past.
This was a brilliant book and the circus made for a fantastic setting. As we saw the show, and met Angelique/Angela – a winged hybrid – for the first time I was transported both to this circus but also back to Angela Carter’s ‘Nights at the Circus’ and its star Fevvers. Peter Bunzl kindly answered my question on twitter confirming that this was an influence and I think a wonderful one.
He said he also drew on the brilliant Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which became gloriously apparent as we became immersed in the circus life, and especially as the story reached its climax (no spoilers!). Peter also talks in the acknowledgements about some of the research and trips to see the circus he did in writing this, and I think it shows – the book seems to really capture circus life.
The adventure itself is tense and exciting, with some excellent twists and jaw-dropping revelations. Themes of friendship and inclusion were woven in well and the historical nature of the story helped to explore inequality and the beginnings of women in science (both Amy and I felt thoroughly ashamed of ourselves for being caught out at one point, as no doubt we were expected to be – we’ll played Peter!!)
Lily and Robert are both likeable characters, but it’s Malkin I was most pleased to see again! The mechanical fix perhaps played a smaller part in this adventure, but was every bit as dry and sardonic as usual when he did feature. You can practically hear his eyes rolling in his voice and I love what this brings to the feel of the book as a whole.
This was a fantastic addition to a fantastic series and I’m only glad I left it so long because it means I font have too long to wait now before book four, Shadowsea. I’m so intrigued about where that will go, though both Amy and I agreed we’re expecting the return of at least one villain!