When Kindle asked me to rate this out of 5 stars, I had a moment’s pause. My confession: it took me over six months to make it through this collection of 17 short stories by Jane Yolen. Some I read in a single sitting, desperately flicking through the pages without hesitation. But unfortunately, most of the stories were a hard slog that I struggled to finish.
This is my first (and likely, last) Jane Yolen novel. The stories of The Emerald Circus are typically slanted tales from familiar properties, like Alice in Wonderland (a recurring theme), Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz. I found the tone of the short stories to be largely consistent throughout but, unfortunately, very few of the stories were memorable or enjoyable for me. Short stories are a difficult medium – often thrusting the reader in quickly and having to establish the rules on the run. The author was wise to work with existing properties to ease the reader with familiarity and this is what immediately drew me to the book. Despite this, I found the collection to shine brightest in the short stories that did not appear to be taken from existing properties. The standout stories for me being: ‘A Knot of Toads’, ‘The Confession of Brother Blaise’, and ‘Evian Steel’.
I was willing to give this book the benefit of a 3 star rating but, unfortunately, the taste left in my mouth from the peculiar final tale, ‘Sister Emily’s Lightship’, has clouded my judgment. It involved a short story of Emily Dickinson being abducted by an alien who looks like a leek, for the purpose of showing her Earth from space. Perhaps I’m too thick to figure out if this was a clever analogy, but for me it was a truly odd read and a bizarre way to finish the novel.
2 stars. Not my cup of tea, unfortunately.