Cover Image: The Midnight Circus

The Midnight Circus

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I had my first experience with Jane Yolen last year February, which I myself consider a bit odd. Here I was, let's say twenty years ago, a child in love with fairy tales, folklore, and the spooky and scary, and yet not one adult ever considered recommending Jane Yolen to me. It is an offense I shall not forget lightly. However, I have tried to make up for it recently and my latest mea culpa took the form of reading The Midnight Circus. Thanks to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an 

Jane Yolen doesn't consider herself a horror writer, not even a particularly scary one. And yet her stories bristle with the unknown, the edge of something not quite safe, the supernatural. It is not about the blood or the glint of moonlight on a knife. It's not about the abject sadness of a matchstick girl freezing to death on Christmas eve. Yolen's stories that are scary are so because they recognize the emotional weight of it all. No need for guts spilling out here! Yolen's The Midnight Circus retains her traditional magical beauty while she pulls back the curtain on the darkness backstage.

It's hard to pick favourites from such a great collection of stories but there were a few that truly stood out to me. 'The Weaver of Tomorrow' is a great opener, setting the tone with a spunky heroine and a sense of doom. 'Become a Warrior' feels distant, as if you're watching the story unfold from behind a sheet of glass, and yet it is starkly wild and beautiful. 'Requiem Antarctica' is a great story about Scott and his doomed mission to Antarctica, with a Gothic edge thrown in. It's not until the very end that the horror sets in. 'Inscription' was another favourite, in which Yolen takes inspiration from a rock inscription found during her walks in Scotland and turns it into a story of magic and betrayal, with a feisty heroine to boot. 'Wilding' has a very different tone to the rest, futuristic, almost Sci-Fi, which took a little bit of getting used to, but I found it very interesting. Not every stories will be a hit with the reader, as is always the case with short story collections. As these stories are also taken from throughout Yolen's long writing career, they reflect different periods and styles. Two stories stood out to me in particular, 'Little Red' and 'Great Grey'. Both stories are very interesting, but should also really come with their own trigger-warnings. Neither feels truly complete and as I almost wish she would have let them simmer for a bit longer. 

Many of Yolen's stories are also tied to her Jewish heritage and they are some of the most heartfelt, frightening and beautiful stories in The Midnight Circus. The generational trauma, the fear and fact of persecution, it all comes through, especially in 'The Snatchers' and 'Names'. In the former she shines a light on the existence of the khapers, who would kidnap young Jewish boys for Russian army service. It's a haunting tale of persecution and horror that shows how this history is not left behind once one moves. It follows generations. The same theme runs through 'Names' in which the names of Holocaust victims are passed down as an almost physical reminder of the horror of the concentration camps. They are starkly beautiful stories that will send a chill down your spine, not just because they are well written but because the banality of human evil is truly the most terrifying thing.

Jane Yolen is an excellent writer. She makes story-writing look simple, each story flowing naturally as if it had always been that way. Some of her stories do seem more suitable for a younger age, yet the themes and ideas keep them relevant for all. As always, each story is accompanied by a poem and a short explanation. I love this insight into Yolen's process and especially into how she collaborates with other artists and authors. Some of her poems have turned into music, while some of her stories turned into collaborative novels. It's this evolutionary process that is fascinating to me and I like that Yolen keeps showing her work. I would prefer to see these poems and descriptions accompany each tale, rather than be collected at the back. I appreciate this might break up the unity of the collection, but now they are a bit dis-connected as you only really engage with them once you've read all the stories. This may be different when reading a physical copy of the book, however.

Jane Yolen is a master story writer. Although not all stories with resonate with every reader, there is a gem or three in The Midnight Circus for everyone. Get your ticket, join the queue, and get ready for beauty, horror, sadness and beauty.
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The Midnight Circus is a collection of short stories that read like dark fairy tales.   They have all have a lingering magic whether hidden or very much visible.   While the stories are both modern and set ages ago, they all have a similar vibe.   As with many story collections, I found some of the entries in this collection to be much stronger than others.    This would be a great book to keep in your bag for when you have spare moments waiting for an appointment or riding the train.
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Author # Jane Yolen is well known in the fantasy world of writing. Her new novel ' The Midnight Circus is a charming collection of short stories. With poems included as a bonus. Just a wonderful novel!!
Thank you,
#Netgalley, # Jane Yolen, and #Tachyon publishing for the advanced copy
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This is a collection of sixteen stories by Jane Yolen. She has written over three hundred and sixty five books, including children’s fiction, poetry, short stories, graphic novels, nonfiction, fantasy, and science fiction. These are darker, spooky stories, each told with her usual lyrical style.

We open with "The Weaver of Tomorrow," featuring a young girl that wants to know everything about everyone, and isn't content with the simple facts that ordinary people would want to know. On the surface it isn't scary, but being cursed with all of the knowledge of the infinite has driven other characters insane in other books. Other stories have similar spooky vibes, not frightening with gore or clear monsters, but with the implications of more sinister goings on than previously understood. History is tweaked in "Requiem Antarctica," taking a fragment of truth and spinning a plausible sounding tale to explain it.

In "Night Wolves," the boy scared of the wolves beneath his bed and the bear in his closet hears a ghost crying in the new home he and his family moves into. Yolen has a fantastic child's voice, bringing a bit of the fantastic into the boy's life. "Winter's King" definitely feels like a fairy tale,from the lyrical nature of the words as well as the way the boy is sent from one home to another yet still yearns for the winter folk. "The Fisherman's Wife" contains silence and the sound of the sea for the characters, and the pull of mermaids that leads to loss of all kinds.

"The House of Seven Angels" is not spooky in a creepy kind of way, but in the way of legends. It's short but packs quite an emotional punch to it, told in a way that reminds me of a speaker's cadence. I can see this story as being told at a campfire or late in the evening after a big family dinner. "Dog Boy Remembers" is a different kind of creepy, featuring a teenage mother and domestic violence, and the murderous Other that is the Fae.

No matter what she writes, Jane Yolen always has a lyrical way of putting the words together. Sometimes the sad pull of the story lingers afterward, so that I feel like I have to remember the story or else it'll disappear.
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"The Midnight Circus" was not the type of book I felt the need to devour in one sitting, but rather a tray of snacks I returned to each night before bed. Jumping from Irish folklore to New York City futurism, these delightfully strange and imaginative stories have a dreamland, fairytale feel that lends itself well to the bedtime hours. Each one presents a new world for us to discover and puzzle out. What are the rules? Who do we care about? And why? 

I recommend this as a book to have on your bedside table for those nights you'd like to have fantastical dreams.

The Kindle version had some formatting issues with the margins, with some left-hand margins being quite wide.
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A deliciously dark set of tales. Jane Yolen is an absolute master storyteller and this is just another brilliant anthology she can add to her long list of successes. Readers will love revisiting old tales and discovering new favourites. Brilliant!
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This collection was not at all what I expected. For example, the stories are certainly not circus themed or dark-carnival themed in any way. Rather, this is a collection of dark stories. Dark, in that humans are dark, brooding, violent, harmful, etc. This collection was "Human Nature Dark," which is fine, if that's a collection you're expecting to read. I think I would have rather known that going in than to have been faced with this particular collection. It reminded me a bit more of the "Monserland" episodes on Hulu right now - vaguely supernatural/paranormal/spooky/beasts, etc., but more "humans are monsters and it sucks."

Jane Yolen can brood and present brooding dark people, no doubt. My rating is more about the collection as a whole and my surprise at it being so so different from what I expected/wanted.
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Considering how many books Jane Yolen has written it seemed impossible that I had never heard of her before requesting this ARC on Netgalley, but well, there I was.
So first, thanks to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for the ARC!

Second, the title and the cover - which is very pretty nonetheless - are completely misleading. If you're looking for short stories telling the life of a circus, this is not the book you're looking for. I know, I was quite surprised too but "circus" is metaphorical.

That said, I enjoyed most of the short stories, which is no small thing considering that I'm often bored and/or very disappointed by this format.
Yolen's writing is very good, in the way it catches you immediately. All her short stories have a story behind it, and you'll find the genesis of each one at the end of the book, which was a nice and interesting touch imo. 
Whether they sparked from a small fact or directly inspired by folklore or History, Yolen sets the ambiance from the start. Some of them are much darker than first anticipated; I mean, that's pretty obvious there's little glitters and rainbows in this book but some are <i>dark</i>. 

An interesting discovery, I'll definitely check the author's work.
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It was a great collection of short stories and I really had a fun time reading these stories. Each one had its own pleasure.
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<b>Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader copy of this book. All views and opinions in this review are my own</b>

This is the first time I've read something from Jane Yolen or read an anthology and let met tell you the combiantion was a really awesome itro to both the author and the format. 

So basically the Midnight Circus is an anthology of fairy tales some with new twitst some remenescent of what we already know however <i>the prevalescent theme here is that they are quite dark so beware</i>of that, here's your first warning. 

While it was better than I expected this buffet of fairy tale stories had his ups and downs but overall they were interesting stories.  Wildlings, Requiem Antartica and Little Red where my personal favs. Some I would love to read more about, they might even be good to expand on. 

The writing style was good, direct, quite explicit and atmospheric in some of the stories.

Quick Tip: If you would like to go blind into each story go ahead and read it as it comes, if however you'd like to have some insight in what's to come go a little bit further and read the "Story notes and Poems" it might contain spoilers but it surelly gives background to each. 

<b>I would totally encourage you to take a peak into this Circus because there are animals there that might be just for you! </b>
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If you’ve ever read a fantasy short story, you’ve most likely heard of Jane Yolen. She’s the kind of fabled writer whose bibliography would take up an entire bookshelf and is much beloved by readers everywhere. I’m consistently amazed at how many stories Yolen is able to tell, each of them filled with something special. Of her most recent collection of stories, The Midnight Circus, I can say that her storytelling ability remains stronger than ever. It’s a wonderful collection of little tales that both enchant and teach valuable lessons with each conclusion.

As a lover of fairy tales, my favorite feature of the storytelling style is how much meaning can be crammed into so few words. It doesn’t take long to teach a valuable lesson when you’re able to capture the reader’s imagination. Yolen doesn’t mess around with drawn out plots and extra sentences. She dives right into the characters and somehow paints a vivid picture while leaving out a lot of the descriptions. This method gives the reader a solid starting point before allowing them to form their own mental pictures as the stories unfold. There’s nothing better than taking over a story with your own imagination, and to have it be so well crafted is an exciting bonus.

The stories themselves feature all manner of settings and characters, ranging from your classic fairy tale with larger than life creatures and myths, to common legends told during the 20th century. We’re not sequestered to fairy lands but carted around between modern day and magic. There were a couple that I got lost in, almost forgetting that I was reading fiction instead of fact. It’s a great collection if you’re looking for a vivid explosion of imagination for a few minutes at a time.

My favorite story was the first in the collection, ‘The Weaver of Tomorrow.’ I loved this little story about a young woman who wants to know everything there is to know. It’s a great start to a book of fairy tales, charting the course for grandiose settings and fantastical beings that defy reality. It’s a journey teetering between excitement, wonder, and sorrow, all fit within a few pages.

Overall, I’m as impressed with The Midnight Circus as I expected to be. Seeing a writer continue to perfect their form is always exciting, and with Yolen, you know you’ll be thrust into worlds known and unknown, leaving the pages a little wiser and a bit further removed from the humdrum happenings of real life.
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A magical and enthralling collection of short stories. All of them are well written, fascinating and I loved them.
Great storytelling and style of writing.
It's the first book I read by this author and won't surely be the last.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Rating: 2.5

The Weaver of Tomorrow- 3/5
The White Seal Maid- 3.5/5
The Snatchers- 3.5/5
Wilding- 1/5
Requiem Antarctica- 3/5
Night Wolves- 2.5/5
The House of Seven Angels- 2/5
Great Gray- 3/5
Little Red- 3.5/5
Winter's King- 3.5/5
Inscription- 2.5/5
Dog Boy Remembers- 2/5
The Fisherman's Wife- 2/5
Become a Warrior 3/5
An Infestation of Angels- 3/5
Names- 2.5/5

Overall, this collection of stories just wasn't for me.
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This is a collection of short stories written by the author in a great storytelling format.  Each story is unique and can range from fantasy to horror. The author is very descriptive and poetic in her writing and grabs the reader's attention.  If you enjoy a fantastical or creepy story, this is the book for you!
Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for the ARC for this book in exchange for my honest review!
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I am not a massive fan of short story collections. They just aren’t for me. But when I read this blurb on Netgalley I was intrigued and decided to just give it a go. And I am glad I did, because I had a decent time with it. There were some great stories in here, and some I really didn’t like. You get that with almost every collection I guess. In general… I liked the sad yet heartwarming stories. I liked the ghost stories. I did not like the ones that were filled with abuse, loveless relationships and just made me feel uncomfortable. On average I gave this a 3* rating (3.375), which is fine.

In more detail:

The weaver of tomorrow: 5* A girl wants to know the faith of all and is told to apprentice with the weaver of tomorrow, where her wish is fullfilled but not in the way she had hoped. Just a nice and almost fairy-tale like story that I really enjoyed.

The white seal maid: 3* A fisherman steals a sealies skin so she has to stay with him. Because he wants her to… but she also has her own motives. Although I liked the ending, I didn’t really care for the story.

The Snatchers: 5* A wonderfully spooky read, linked to the Holocaust, with the creepy ending I want all of these stories to have.

Wilding: 3* Set in a future where everything is safe, people can get temporarily transformed into animals and go Wilding to still feel a sense of danger. This was an interesting idea which got ruined for me by an annoying main character.

Requim Antartica: 4* A dying naval surgeon tells about his polar expedition, and their bloodthirsty captain.

Night wolves: 5* A kid has had wolves and bears roaming his room at night, but when his parents get divorced and he moves house they are joined by a ghost. I LOVED this story, easily my favourite in the collection. It was cute and heartwarming but still spooky.

The house of seven angels: 2* a story about a Jewish boy and the Angel of Death. I really didn’t care for this one.

Great gray: 1* We are in the head of a pedophile, who worships an owl and collects skulls. And I hated it.

Little Red: 1* Another one about child abuse, this one more graphic, featuring Little Red Riding Hood, in an asylum, cutting herself in between getting raped. I DNF’ed this one.

Winter’s King: 3* Something more fairy tale like, it follows a boy born dead, but reawakened by a strange prayer. He spends his whole life looking for his kin. I really liked the ending, sad as it was.

Inscription: 4* A naive girl gets herself impregnated by a man who doesn’t want to commit, but what she does next is great. This is a confession and a warning to her son.

Dog Boy Remembers: 2* a story about a boy and his horrible father. Sad, hopeless and uncomfortable, not how I want to feel reading this book.

The fisherman’s wife: 5* I really enjoyed this story of a deaf woman who goes to the bottom of the sea to take back her husband from the mermaids.

Become a warrior: 5* another great story about a strong woman. After her father has fallen on the battlefield, a girl doesn’t follow what a woman ‘should’ do and goes out to take revenge.

An infestation of angels: 2* a weird story about how the ‘slaves’ try to deal with the plagues sent to them by angels. I didn’t care much for it.

Names: 4* the tales of a Holocaust survivor lead her daughter into an eating disorder. A powerful and harrowing story to end on.

Am I now sold to short story collections? No. Am I glad I read this? Yes. There were a few great stories in here that will stick with me for a good while.
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There were certainly great dark stories that I’d love to hear more about, f.e. Become a Warrior which is honestly a cross between Mulan and Arya Stark. It’s dark and full of murder, but in a good way… Does that sound really weird? You can still relate to the main character and her choices, and you’re secretly on the road to revenge right along with her. Other interesting stories include: Wilding, Night Wolves and Names.

Speaking of Names, while I ‘loved’ reading it, the choice to mix the fantastical stories with the true-life horrors of WOII seemed really odd to me. I don’t mind reading books about it because I find it essential to learn from our history, especially from the people who lived it, but you can’t really get into it when the previous story is about ghosts, can you?
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i really enjoy Ms. Yolen's work, I enjoyed that there were multiple stories in this collection each book had what I was looking for and there was no weak story in this book.
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I wanted to discover Jane Yolen since I stumbled on one of her books called How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.When I saw The Midnight Circus on NetGalley, I couldn't not ask for it!

The first thing to greet the reader in this short-story collection is the introduction by Theodora Goss, and then the introduction by Jane Yolen. 
I didn't expect that. I didn't know Jane Yolen at all and didn't think she was this loved! From this first introduction - and from the afterword - I gathered that she is considered the Hans Christian Andersen of America and a Queen. 
I don't think it was the best way to attract me, even though I loved Theodora Goss's writing-style tehere. 
The best way was Jane Yolen's intro, talking about her inspirations: Frankenstein and The Haunting of Hill House. THIS made me REALLY want to read this book. 

And then to the stories. 
From the beginning, I loved the writing-style. It fits the fairytale aspect of the stories, it is poetic and sometimes eerie, while still being fluid and agreeable. 
I loved the diversity of creatures/beings the reader encounters, being them selkies, vampires, werewolves, or other. They are from fairy- or folktales, legends or myths; I knew some very well, like the vampire, and didn't know anything about others, like the snatcher. 
I loved the magic woven into the words: with each new tale, I was transported elsewhere and was snatched back at the end. Finally, I loved the stories's endings, always surprising or striking. 

My favorite stories are: 
- "The White Seal Maid": I never heard of seal maidens before and it was both poetic and sad, both cruel and beautiful; 
- "The Fisherman's Wife": I loved the exploration of silence there and the link of the characters with the sea. 
I loved the other stories too, but these ones have a special place, probably because they deal with sea, sea creatures and tales related to it and them! 

I was surprised by "Requiem Antartica", loved the multiple narrators, the length of the story because it helped the reader immerse himself into the atmosphere of it, first with the first narrator and the confession, then with the Antartic landscape. I was cold reading this story, and the ending got me shivering!
Same with "Become a Warrior": I really didn't expect this ending and thought I might be disappointed in this story, which felt, at some point, too conventional despite the "beauty" of the beginning. I'm glad I was mistaken! 

I even loved the religion-based short stories, like "The House of Seven Angels" or "An Infestation of Angels"! I loved the ones which took from historical facts, like "The Snatchers" or "Names". 
I might love - or at least like - every one of them, which is quite rare for a short-story collection. There are always stories the reader doesn't care about, which do nothing to them. 

My least favorites are probably "Great Gray" and "Dog Boy Remembers": I was ill-at-ease all along, even though - and probably because ! - it was well written. It felt too real and I didn't want it in my head. It's like I had to wash myself after reading those! But still, they didn't leave me indifferent; I disliked them, but I also liked them for the unease they brought me. They touched me in a way. 

The only aspect of the book I "didn't care about" were the poems at the end of the collection: I didn't click with most of them. But I loved to have some context about the creation of each short story! 

So, a great short-story collection and a great discovery for me! I'll read other books by Jane Yolen, including the one I mentionned earlier, and probably The Last Tsar's Dragons and Briar Rose!
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It took me two tries to read this book. The first time I tried to read it, i was about to DNF, but I decided to wait a bit and try again, chalking it up to not being in the mood for that sort of book. However, when I picked it up this time, I still wanted to DNF it. I didn't find the stories particularly intriguing.  Out of all of the stories, I enjoyed a few stories. I really liked the story of The White Seal Maid. I also liked that the author took inspiration from her family history to write The Snatchers.I really like how creative this author is with how she decides what to write about and taking inspiration from poems and other stories or events. That being said, I truly believe that while this book wasn't for me, I can see a lot of people really enjoying it.
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Thank you to Netgalley, Jane, and Tachyon Publications for an advance copy of this fun collection of stories, perfect for October.

The Midnight Circus is a collection of sixteen stories, most of which where something is not quite what it seems. As is the case with all short story collections, I enjoyed some stories immensely and others not at all. Each story has a haunting slow-burn feel to it. There is a sinister feel throughout the story, sometimes it is presented right away and other times you don’t get it until the final sentence. I specifically enjoyed this aspect, as it keeps the stories from being too repetitive.

If I had to select a few stories that I really enjoyed (stories that I would rank 4-5 stars), they are the following:

The Weaver of Tomorrow, in which a little girl is desperate to know the future.
The White Seal Maid, in which a fisherman takes a seal as a wife and together they have seven sons.
Wilding, in which Central Park hosts an uncomfortable futuristic game where the players turn into wild animals.
Dog Boy Remembers, which explores the relationship between a father and his son.
Little Red, a retelling of the classic tale.
Overall, I give the collection three stars, but I really did enjoy the above stories. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s into exploring the darker side of storytelling.
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