The Carnivale of Curiosities

Grand Central. Jul. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9781538723937. $29. FANTASY
DEBUT In Gibbs’s gothic, Faustian debut novel, the Carnivale of Curiosities performs its astounding acts in Victorian London while the real show goes on behind the scenes. The story promises high stakes, blackmail, the supernatural, and an eccentric sideshow family, and delivers on some of it. It is beautifully presented, with vivid descriptions of the most minute aspects of setting. However, the characters, and there is a robust troupe of them, often feel one-dimensional, and the point of view too quickly cycles between multiple players without adding as much depth to the story as seems necessary. Additionally, while it is easy to like the quirky players on the surface, some readers will find it difficult to connect on a deeper level. The plot is intriguing and smartly woven together but sometimes feels too slow to develop, and the stakes aren’t high enough.
VERDICT This novel will appeal to those who deeply loved V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue or Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, but may be a tough sell for others.
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