Reviewer: The Book Dragon
Having read several of Ms. Burke’s novels (and I especially liked her Nyssa Glass steampunk series), I was excited to read her latest, which is set in the world of theatre using an interesting concept of magical “knacks.” The MC is Leodora, or Leo, who has had a rough upbringing in a traveling circus where unspeakable things happened to her. This causes her to run away with her younger sister Muse, not only to protect her but to help her reach her dream of being a dancer. At The Curiosity, an old family theatre with dark secrets of its own, they meet a fellow teen named Paxton who has a mechanical arm and a kind heart. Leo and Muse find a home and a family, and all is well for four years. But conflict is the heart of fiction, so of course, things don’t stay safe. Someone else wants to uncover the secrets at the Heart of the Curiosity, and destruction and death ensue.
This wonderful story is part magic, part mystery, and part coming-of-age while dealing with serious subjects in a very effective way. The details are so much fun to read, from the smells and tastes of the local “coffee shop” to the adorable snail circus and the chilling, sometimes dangerous secret passages in the old theatre. Recommended for older teens and up, since there is a murder, two self-defense killings, mild swearing, and the effects of rape, but all are dealt with in a sensitive way.