I mentioned in my previous post that going into this I was a bit skeptical because I've heard it compared to The Night Circus, which I absolutely adored. I heard the same comparison just after I started it. I think I would have been better off if I hadn't heard that and/or had read Wonder Show before I read The Night Circus.
It's not that Wonder Show is a bad book but it doesn't have the depth that The Night Circus has. That almost works for it because it covers a different sort of theme than The Night Circus. Wonder Show is grounded in reality. If it weren't the book wouldn't work nearly as well.
Wonder Show covers the same sort of theme as Seraphina. Finding where you fit and learning what it really means to be different. It also covers the idea of telling stories and what makes a story and what the point in telling them is. There are also mentions of whether the truth is what matters. These are all fantastic ideas to be looking at and they play off of each other surprisingly well. However, none of them are fully developed. They are all touched on and tied into the story but aren't really explored all the way through. I tried to play it off as there is no real end to Portia's story, etc but it just didn't work. The story felt finished the themes and ideas did not.
Maybe I'm so used to reading books that are so heavily based on character that reading one based on plot through me off. The characters didn't feel complete either. The story was done but nothing else felt finished.
Portia was pretty cool as a protagonist except she felt as undeveloped as the themes. She was so obsessed with telling stories but I wanted to see more of that. I wanted to see her making up more stories instead of just taking them in. I feel like she should have been making up the back ground stories for people who didn't tell her.
I, of course, wanted more Gideon. He was set up to be this enigma and I wanted the puzzle solved. I can sort of see why it wasn't but that didn't stop me from wanting it.
I really loved the look at life in the wonder show. They have their code and their own rules and Barnaby goes to lengths to show us some of that. Yes, I would have liked to see a little bit more but the lack of depth kept up with the lack of depth in other areas as well. But what we did get was wonderful. There was so much going on and part of me liked that we only got to see the surface because it was sort of like seeing a snapshot of these character's lives. And I liked that for some of the secondary characters.
Mister was fantastically creepy. I was so taken in by Portia's story and completely caught off guard by the truth. That was well done by Barnaby. It seems almost simple that he was sending the girls off to be mail-order work brides (even though it isn't) that I didn't really think about it. But I was horrified when I learned the truth.
The lack of resolution in Caroline's story sort of irked me. Not in the story about her, but more in that we see Portia just accept that she killed Caroline. There's a little bit of a mention that she needs to let it go but it's a passing mention. I felt like it was just sort of let go. Like it ended leaving the reader thinking it was okay for her to think that because it was part of the story that she didn't have to tell the others.
I think all of the talk about it being okay to lie to readers is supposed to make us doubt the story that Portia is telling us. But at the same time that only occurred to me after I finished and even then, I didn't really doubt it I just wondered if I should have. If that was what Barnaby had intended.
I think the big saving grace of this book is how quick of a read it is. If it had taken longer to read, dragged a little without the depth I would have been tempted to give it up. It's such a wonderful idea but it was shallow. I just wanted more from it. I wasn't disappointed with the story or how it ended I felt like there should have been more in between (which I know sounds at odds with the beginning of this paragraph). Her writing style is swift and poetic just...there should be more.
It did actually inspire me to do a couple of Life Lessons Learned From Books. Something I haven't done in a while because I hate the keyboard on the phone I have now.
So, overall I give Hannah Barnaby's Wonder Show a rating of: Epic.
Have any of you read it? What did you think? Love it? Like it?
Next I start yet another award winner. One that has been on my list a while. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. It's, admittedly not a YA but sounds interesting so we'll check it out. It was one of the Alex Award winners this year.