Macneal takes us back to Victorian England. It is 1866 and everyone is a bit manic over the circus life. The freaks, the oddities, the animal tamers, and of course those human wonders.
Jasper Jupiter has a plan for his Circus of Wonders. To be the biggest circus anywhere. He believes it is his destiny and he will do anything to keep it. As they set up their tents in small poor towns, people come to gawk and take advantage.
In one of those towns lives Nell. Nell has vitiligo, a disease no one knew back then. It causes the loss of skin color in patches. She is made fun of, shunned, and then the worst of betrayals. Her father sells her to Jupiter. Calling her the “leopard girl”. Nell is crushed. Surely her brother will come for her. But as time goes by and she bonds with the performers, she isn’t so sad anymore.
Nell is transformed into a human wonder. She is the Queen of the Moon and Stars. Flying high over the crowds and becoming famous. A little too famous for Jasper.
Jasper and his brother Toby have a co-dependent relationship that has something to do with what happened during the war. Jasper holds it over Toby’s head until the truth comes out and everyone runs.
I am not embarrassed to say I cried so hard in this book. Nell is a courageous and determined character. She goes from wanting to fade into the background to knowing her worth and following her own star.
Macneal is a genius at pulling on our heartstrings as well as giving us looks at Victorian England in all of its ugliness at the time.
NetGalley/ February 1st, 2022 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books