***I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review***
SYNOPSIS: Kitty Hayward and her mother have recently moved to New York, but after only a few days her mother vanishes without a trace, the hotel workers act like they don’t know her, and Kitty is left homeless and penniless. She stumbles across Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet and the assortment of carnie folk that live their promise to give her a home and help find her mother. However little does anyone know that something far worse is looming on the horizon.
***There Will Be Spoilers In This Review***
Before I go into the reasons that this book didn’t catch my interest I will say that this book is extremely well written and starts of strong. Wood did an amazing job of creating the world of early 1900s Coney Island and she populated her world with a wonderfully diverse and fascinating cast of characters. You have Rosalind (who is biologically male, but is very much a gender fluid character), Zeph (an African American man missing his legs), P-Ray (a Turkish boy who doesn’t speak English), Nazan (I don’t think it’s ever explicitly stated she’s Turkish, but her family is from that area of the world), Spencer (a rich young man who has a heart of gold), Enzo (Rosalind’s Italian boyfriend with a scarred face), and Timur (the mad scientist who lives in the attic). These characters (along with our heroine, Kitty) form a weird family that would do anything for each other and I love how instantaneous a lot of the relationships are. You can tell just how much they all care for and about each other in the chaos that their world is becoming. There is something lovable about every single character (except the villains of course) and I wanted so badly to love this book, but alas it was not meant to be. A fair warning, this book gets real depressing real fast, but not even in the shatter-your-heart-and-fix-it-back-up way that books like The Book Thief do. First of all Wood did a wonderful job of creating an air of mystery and suspense, but at the half-way point all the mysteries were solved leaving Wood nowhere to go. I wanted a manic energy to this because it’s revealed that a plague is spreading through the island, but instead I got a slow moving story with characters that I loved and that was the only reason I could find to push forward. Second there is an unnecessary, unsatisfying character death. Spencer dies for literally no reason and it made me so mad, but because it was almost the end of the book I owed it to myself to see just how it all could possibly end. In my opinion if you’re going to kill off a lovable character, then that character’s death needs to impact everyone else in a profound way and you also need to kill off a couple of other characters that are well-liked to make some sort of balance in the narrative. Spencer’s death literally had no impact. Sure Nazan cried, but after a brief funeral it was like he never really existed. It did not need to happen at all because the story moved on and he didn’t even have the plague. It would’ve been more impactful and more heartbreaking if P-Ray died on the plague than Spencer just randomly getting bumped off. While I did love the writing and I loved the world, I don’t think the plot was strong enough to hold everything together. I wanted to be thoroughly heart-broken the way some other fairly sad historical fiction novels have done, but sadly that did not happen. There are plenty of people who truly loved this book, but I am not one of them.
Thanks your Sourcebooks for allowing me to read this book! Buy it here.