Review The Midnight Circus – Jane Yolen

Welcome to the Midnight Circus – and watch your step. The dark imaginings of fantasy icon Jane Yolen are not for the faint of heart. In these sixteen brilliantly unnerving tales and poems, Central Park becomes a carnival where you can – but probably shouldn’t – transform into a wild beast. The Red Sea will be deadly to cross due to a plague of voracious angels. Meanwhile, the South Pole is no place for even a good man, regardless of whether he is living or dead.

Wicked, solemn, and chilling, the circus is ready for your visit – just don’t arrive late.

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.

9 thoughts on “Review The Midnight Circus – Jane Yolen

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