The Emer­ald Cir­cus

Jane Yolen Tachyon Pub­li­ca­tions (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $15.95 (288pp) 978-1-61696-273-9 For lovers of lit­er­a­ture, Arthuri­ana, and fairy tales, this is a trea­sure trove.

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - MEAGAN LOGSDON

The Emer­ald Cir­cus is a mov­ing col­lec­tion of sto­ries that con­veys time­less truths as it af­fec­tion­ately plays with tra­di­tional tales.

Jane Yolen’s lat­est col­lec­tion is a won­der­ful menagerie of twists on clas­sic fairy tales, le­gends, and the lives of lit­er­ary fig­ures. These sto­ries parade be­neath a cir­cus tent knit by the un­der­ly­ing theme of the power of art.

Book­end­ing the col­lec­tion are two evoca­tive yarns based on highly in­flu­en­tial lit­er­ary per­son­al­i­ties. Hans Chris­tian An­der­son tran­scends his im­pov­er­ished ori­gins, en­coun­ters the real Snow Queen, and gains the ad­mi­ra­tion of chil­dren world­wide. Emily Dick­in­son is taken for a ride in an alien space­ship and dis­cov­ers the con­nec­tions that words can forge across dif­fer­ences. New reaches of beauty af­fect her poetry for­ever.

Be­tween these sto­ries, a vast range of le­gends and fairy tales are deftly re­worked. Lancelot seeks the hid­den grave of Guin­e­vere. A group of Wendys stage a fem­i­nist re­volt against Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. The tor­nado car­ries Dorothy away from Kansas to join the Emer­ald Cir­cus, where she be­comes a tal­ented ac­ro­bat. The ori­gin of Ex­cal­ibur re­sides on a mys­te­ri­ous is­land of women sword­smiths. Alice, with­out a vor­pal blade, faces the Jabberwocky. A dy­ing monk re­lates the events sur­round­ing the birth of Mer­lin. Ev­ery episode is de­light­fully fresh and full of poignant in­sight. For lovers of lit­er­a­ture, Arthuri­ana, and fairy tales, this is a trea­sure trove.

The prose never fails to en­trance, and the cre­ativ­ity on dis­play im­presses. There is an ob­vi­ous depth of re­search and care, par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent in “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown,” a tale cen­ter­ing on Dis­raeli, the in­trigu­ing Jewish­turned-angli­can prime min­is­ter of Vic­to­ria’s Eng­land on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions. Notes in the back on each in­di­vid­ual story of­fer a peek into the mind of the writer and give con­text for Yolen’s in­spi­ra­tion. These are in­ter­spersed with a few of her own po­ems, which are warm and invit­ing.

The Emer­ald Cir­cus dances at the bor­der be­tween buck­ing tra­di­tion and pay­ing homage to the great sto­ries and fig­ures of ages past. The re­sult is a bril­liant as­sem­blage of nar­ra­tives with the po­ten­tial to leave an au­di­ence spell­bound.

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