If you want an MG story to grab you by your emotional lapels and hurl you back and forth like a trapeze artist’s swing, then buy your ticket to Cyrus Quinn’s circus, take your seat in the big top and enjoy the show!
From the opening line of the prologue I was absolutely enthralled as Ester defied her mother’s instructions and began her perilous journey upwards. As her dreams of flight segue into her son Bastjan’s story, I couldn’t tear myself away from his quest to investigate his mother’s past and return an ancient treasure to its rightful owner.
Sinéad O’Hart’s writing is lyrical, big-hearted and utterly compelling. She effortlessly brings Bastjan’s character to life on the page, the reader feels the warmth and love with which Crake, the circus strongman, provides protection and support for the young, orphaned tumbler. This is brilliantly contrasted with the cold tyranny with which Quinn treats his stepson as he tries to reverse the fortunes of his foundering business. Since the death of his star performer, Ester, who held the crowds enraptured with her Dance of the Snowflakes trapeze routine, the crowds have dwindled and Quinn will seemingly stop at nothing to replace her. But what was the secret of her aerial ability, and has her son inherited her fearless talent?
The arrival of an upper-class runaway, Alice Patten, proves the catalyst for twists and turns in the plot that build to a crescendo of explosive action. I will not go into any details for fear of ruining your enjoyment of a story with more thrills and spills than a tent full of acrobats. Suffice to say that the immaculate world-building combined with wonderfully drawn characters make this a book to be savoured, it is a hugely enjoyable work of speculative fiction combining a brilliant blend of circus, steampunk and fantasy. It will be massively enjoyed by confident readers of 9+ and would make an excellent whole class or bedtime story which I am sure that adults will enjoy as much as their young audience; just be prepared for constant pleas for “one more chapter”!
Skyborn will be published on 10th June 2021 and I am most grateful to Little Tiger Press for providing me with a pre-publication copy in exchange for my honest opinion.