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The Midnight Circus Kindle Edition
In the newest volume of her World Fantasy Award-winning short story collections, beloved author Jane Yolen’s dark side has fully emerged. Her vivid, startling, and thrilling tales and poems of the supernatural—from icy-hearted witches to sometimes-innocent shapeshifters—reveal a classic storyteller at the height of her powers.
“Look this way, look that; blazing her consummate imagination against the shadows of human sorrow, Jane Yolen has done it again.”—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked
Jane Yolen is the Hans Christian Andersen of America” —The New York Times
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.
Other Jane Yolen short story collections in this series
The Emerald Circus: 2018 World Fantasy Award winner
How to Fracture a Fairy Tale: 2019 Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award
―Catherynne M. Valente, author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own
“Look this way, look that; blazing her consummate imagination against the shadows of human sorrow, Jane Yolen has done it again. She has produced a set of spectacles designed to keep us awake in the darkness. The Midnight Circus delights, confounds, and challenges. We read all the night long; we are not the same come dawn.”
―Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked
“The Midnight Circus sings with magic, darkness, and wonder--perfect for anyone who has ever loved a fairy tale. Thrilling and chilling all at once, this collection of stories will keep you riveted long after your bedtime, no matter your age. This is exactly the kind of dark, lovely book to keep close to one's heart while facing down darkness in the wider world.”
―Meagan Spooner, author of Hunted
“A girl uses magic to call her love but not to keep him. A child born in winter hears voices calling to him in the cold wind. A lonely man falls for a selkie who sings an enticing song. Yolen often uses the language and imagery of fairy tales to weave her original, spellbinding stories, which make a cohesive collection. They’re all dark, though in most cases, that darkness encompasses loss but doesn’t revel in it. As Yolen puts it in her introduction, there's “a frisson of terror rather than massive amounts of spilt blood.” A couple of stories veer closer to true horror: The main character of “Great Gray” is drawn to the rare owls of the title because of his own predatory instincts, and the narrator of “Little Red” endures hinted-at torments because the alternative of returning home to her grandmother is somehow worse. But, as promised, there’s very little blood in these pages―just glimpses of the darkness of human nature. Some stories, like “Inscription,” read like Celtic folktales while “Requiem Antarctica” is a Jamesian tale of creeping madness at the ends of the Earth, and “An Infestation of Angels” is a retelling of the book of Exodus. And if the stories themselves somehow aren’t enough, each is accompanied by a poem that extends its themes into evocative verse. Haunting stories from a modern master.”
“Nebula Award winner Yolen follows How to Fracture a Fairy Tale with another, slightly more sinister collection of delightfully dark fairy tales. Each of the 16 stories is coupled with a companion poem and fascinating story notes that allow readers to delve into Yolen’s magical worlds . . . Yolen’s many fans will be thrilled to find her largely true to form. This collection is a gift for fairy tale lovers.”
“Each deliciously spooky tale in Jane Yolen’s Midnight Circus draws readers into fully realized worlds with strong characters who reflect the strengths―and the darkness―in all of us. She mixes storytelling styles to excellent effect, from disturbing folklore to futuristic shapeshifting, grounding them in history and legend, so they are at once familiar and utterly, terrifyingly alien. I love Jane’s storytelling EVEN WHEN IT GIVES ME NIGHTMARES. These short pieces are can’t-put-down, and they will absolutely make you shiver like someone is walking across your grave.”
―Susan Vaught, author of Trigger and Freaks Like Us
“Jane Yolen's stories are pure magic! They draw you in, beguile your senses, and paint the world in richer hues than you've ever seen. Her tales will haunt you in the very best way. I loved every word!”
―Sarah Beth Durst, author of Race the Sands
“5/5 stars. A wonderful collection of short stories! Each one is its own self-contained story that is just perfection.”
―Ash & Books
“Overall, this is a wonderful collection of tales that is perfect for sitting around the campfire or for a fun fall or winter read (definitely Halloween worthy)!”
“The Midnight Circus explores an unexpected aspect of a beloved author and reminds us why Yolen’s writing means so much to us . . . essential reading for all fans of Yolen’s work, especially those who are less familiar with the darker side of her imagination.”
―The Fantasy Hive
“These stories chilled me to the bone, and I loved every minute!”
―YA Lit Ramblings
“Jane Yolen is the queen of the fairy tale genre and this collection of her previously published stories had everything I have come to expect from a master storyteller.”
“Each story is a brilliant fairy tale with a rhyme and reason.”
―Haunted by Deadlines
“Every story is excellent. I didn't want to stop reading.”
Praise for the Jane Yolen Classic Fantasy anthology series
On 2018 World Fantasy Award winner The Emerald Circus
[STARRED REVIEW] “These delightful retellings of favorite stories will captivate newcomers and fans of Yolen as she once again delivers the magic, humor, and lovely prose that has attracted readers for years.”
[STARRED REVIEW] “These highly entertaining retellings are perfect for teens fans of fairy tales and classic literature, though they are easily enjoyed without any background knowledge.”
―School Library Journal
“From Snow Queen to spaceship, The Emerald Circus is a delight.”
―Patricia A. McKillip, author of the Riddle-Master trilogy
On 2019 Anne Izard Storytelling Award Winner How to Fracture a Fairy Tale
“This collection is Jane Yolen at her best, telling stories you’ve never seen before but have known all your life, and stories as familiar as your left hand that you barely recognize, spun from shadows and moonlight and breathed through silvered glass.”
―Patricia C. Wrede, author of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles
“Yolen takes well-known fairy tales and splits them apart, sometimes leaving them still quite familiar and other times shining a light from an unfamiliar angle to reveal new truths and possibilities”
―Margo Kelly, author of Unlocked
“A master storyteller at her best. I’ve been a fan of Jane Yolen and fractured fairytales for years and this collection doesn’t disappoint.”
―Chanda Hahn, bestselling author of Reign
“As a whole, this collection of a career’s worth of successes is a celebration of an American author that is often times called a modern Hans Christian Andersen.”
—Haunted by Deadliness
“A master writer with a prodigious oeuvre and these are some of her best dark stories.”
- ASIN : B084RJ13MR
- Publisher : Tachyon Publications (October 1, 2020)
- Publication date : October 1, 2020
- Language : English
- File size : 798 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 219 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,715 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- #2,216 in Science Fiction Short Stories
- #3,304 in Fantasy Anthologies & Short Stories (Kindle Store)
- #3,442 in U.S. Short Stories
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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It does have violence including sexual so this is not a sweet fairy tale book for kids.
But the stories are fairy tales of a dark variety. These would make good scary stories to tell around an adult bonfire perhaps.
Along with lots of work by Jane Yolen (sixteen, plus poetry towards the back), there's an introduction by Theodora Goss. Finally, to give credit where credit is due, two of the short stories had co-authors, Robert J. Harris, and Adam Stemple.
Below you'll find individual reviews for each short story in this collection. It's also worth nothing that about the last ten percent of The Midnight Circus contains notes and poetry, all of which relates to the stories that preceded them.
“In the end, with only a bit of sweat, we produced the book. You are now judge and jury of it all.”
The Weaver of Tomorrow
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
They say that you should be careful what you wish for. That may just be true in this tale. This is the story of a young woman with a rare gift. She could see the future of those around her, yet it still wasn't enough. She wanted to know it all.
“The true knowledge she desired was each tick of tomorrow, each fall and each failure, each heartache, and each pain, that would be the portion of every man.”
This was an intriguing tale, and an interesting start to this collection. I love the idea of a seer learning a greater craft, as she finds her place in the world – and it is not at all what she (or I) would have expected.
The White Seal Maid
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
We've all heard the tale of Selkies, how they can come to land, and how even when they do, they always crave the sea. This is Jane Yolen's take on the Selkies, and a love (perhaps) that formed from it.
“And as she sang, the water began to fill up with seals.”
I loved this short story. My only regret is that we weren't able to see both sides of the story – that would have been truly compelling, if you ask me. Still, I enjoyed this take very much, and would honestly love to see more like it. Then again, I've always enjoyed hearing about Selkies, so I might be biased here.
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
This is a darker story, one that pulls details of real-life and history to make it feel even more real, and haunting. This is the story of what some Jewish people went through to avoid the draft.
“He was a kidnapper, a bounty hunter, a Jew against Jews.”
This is a dark tale, that can probably go without saying. Yolen really does have a talent for using fiction to explore the horrors and atrocities of her past. It's beautiful if also daunting at the same time. This is one of those stories.
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Sometimes even the most civilized of worlds need a reminder of the past. Need an excuse to blow off steam, and let loose from time to time. In this world, that little bit of allowance is called Wilding.
Out in the park
Well after dark,
Wilding is one of my top two stories from this entire collection. It has a little bit of everything, from science fiction/fantasy elements, to a coming of age story, and even a little bit of a thriller. Plus all that commentary on society. This is a story I would have liked to see more, if given a chance.
Requiem Antarctica with Robert J. Harris
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
This is the story that one man has carried with him alone, right up to his deathbed. Now it's time to speak up, to speak of the horrors he learned of, while traveling to Antarctica. It is nothing like what you'll expect, with the horrors having followed him there.
“You'll need a drink if you are to hear me through to the end.”
Here's my other absolute favorite from this collection. I love the themes that ran through this short story, as well as all of the implications. Admittedly I'm a bit biased here, as I love tales about the exploration of Antarctica, as well as the other surprise that this story brings. But still, it was great fun to read!
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A haunting tale of the horrors that terrify a little girl once the lights go out, but with several surprising twists along the way. This is the tale of one girl learning the reasons to be brave.
“The wolves lived under my bed, the bear in my closet. They only came out at night.”
This was one of those stories that started out dark, but got pretty sweet towards the end. It has some dark implications, but otherwise is brilliant from start to finish.
The House of Seven Angels
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A little boy is the only one to have witnessed what happens in one man's house. You see, Moishe has witnessed seven angels residing there, aiding the man. Until one day that all changed.
“And he was being served, Moishe said, by seven angels.”
This was an intriguing story. I love the way it was told, as it really gave it that classic folktale feel. I think that enhanced the story quite a bit in my mind, if I'm being honest.
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The invasion has occurred, and with it, there are countless birds now to be found. Yet Donnal can't help but be fascinated with them, and every little detail they bring into his world.
“Donnal didn't know a great deal about birds, but the newspapers had been full of the invasion, as it was called.”
This was an intriguing story, though I'll admit that I found myself confused at times. Donnal's story is complex and slightly convoluted, with intention I have no doubt.
Little Red with Adam Stemple
Rating: ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Sexual abuse, cutting
This is the story of one young woman, and the imaginary world she delves into in order to escape the horrors of her real life.
“The forest is dark but I know the way. I have been here before.”
I'll admit I enjoy the concept of this world being pure imagination – I've seen it before, and done to great effect. However, the implications (see the warnings) are just a bit too dark for me.
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
There once was a baby who was brought to life by a stranger, only for all those around him to believe he was cursed by winter from that moment onward. He embraced the idea of becoming Winter's King.
“Then he shall be a Winter King, more than any of his kin or kind.”
This is a dark and twisted tale, which actually makes it perfect for this collection. I love the themes that run throughout this short story, and honestly almost would have liked to see more of it. Though it's also solid the way it is now.
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Deathbed confessions are not a new thing. This is the story revealed by one mother, to her son, on the off chance that she doesn't survive what ails her. It's the story of the father he never met.
“It is a lie, you know, that inscription. From first to last.”
I love how this story unraveled. It didn't end at all as I expected. For that matter, none of this story went how I expected, and I loved that about it. This is classic Jane Yolen storytelling if ever I've seen it.
Dog Boy Remembers
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
This is the story of one boy trying to live up to the standards of his father, while missing the life his mother had worked so hard to give him. With a magical twist, naturally.
“When his father came to fetch him that first time, his mother wept.”
I really wanted to like this story more, but I struggled with it. Maybe it's the implications that were in it, but I'm not sure. It had an interesting core concept, which I respect. Likewise, I appreciate the creatures that were pulled into this tale.
The Fisherman's Wife
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The legends of fishermen are not to be ignored. They have warnings in them, that must be heeded. That applies even to fishermen, who should know better than to tangle with creatures of the deep.
“But every fisherman knows that when you have dealings with the deep you leave something of yourself behind.”
This was another brilliant story by Jane Yolen. Here she's taken fishermen lore, mermaids, and a tale of love, and twisted it all together to create something new. I loved it, though I was blown away by the ending.
Become A Warrior
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Death, gore
This is the tale of one little girl, and her journey to become a warrior. She once had a family, until the war took it all away. Now she's forced to find a new path in life.
“To become a warrior, forget the past.”
What an intriguing story. I'll be honest with you, I struggled to get into this one at first, but I'm so glad I stuck with it, because that ending makes it all totally worth it! Though I won't ruin the ending, I promise. I will say that is was a surprise, all while being highly satisfying.
An Infestation of Angels
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Once a contract has been signed, you must stay with it. Even when those contracts take advantage of an entire people.
“One who goes back on his signed word is no better than a thief.”
This was an interesting story, though to be honest, I wish it had been longer. I think having more time to develop would have helped this particular piece.
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Starvation, survivor's guilt
The past haunts us, especially those of us who have lived through the most harrowing events possible. Take Rachel's mother, who lists out those who did not survive as she did.
“But Rachel always knew that when the toll call was done, her mother would start the death-camp stories.”
This is a dark and disturbing tale, one made all the more so because of the use of real events in history. It was an interesting piece, though the ending made me want to run for cover (maybe that's a good thing though?).
Despite the title and the introduction of this book, the stories have nothing to do with circuses. Instead we encounter a fisherman who marries a selkie woman, teenagers with the ability to turn into wild animals, a plague of predatory angels, an Antarctic expedition hiding a dark secret, a killer obsessed with owls, and more. Every story is a shade darker than Yolen's usual work -- sometimes MUCH darker and veering into some disturbing territory -- but it never feels like it's trying for shock value like some "dark" fantasy. And while I wish some stories had been longer and a few feel like snippets of longer tales, I was still entranced by what I read most of the time.
Like any story collection, the quality of these short stories varied wildly, and some were better and more memorable than others. Also... I may get some flak for this, but while I enjoyed the author's notes on each story, I wasn't so fond of the poetry. I also wish the notes had been included after each story, instead of having to flip to the end of the book to read each one. Also, as much as I love Jane Yolen and as much as she's a celebrated author, did this book really need two essays singing her praises?
Also, while not as grimdark as some "dark fantasy" collections, this book does contain scenes of graphic violence, harm to children, and other sensitive topics. Please use discretion before reading.
"The Midnight Circus" is certainly darker than Yolen's usual work, but it's still an interesting collection of stories, some of which are true gems that I would love to see fleshed out more. It's definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the author or of darker fantasy in general. Just don't expect an actual circus...
The stories take the reader into the heart of the conflict with stunning imagery that is both comforting in its familiarity but also somewhat disquieting and threatening. With each story’s ending, the reader can envision what the main character would next contemplate. At the end of the book, each story has a brief poem and notes about how the tale was crafted. Readers should be advised to skip ahead after reading each tale to read that section. It gives deeper meaning and nuances to each story.
The book title seemed a bit off. Maybe it was just meant to portray an event that is unexpected and possibly showing the underbelly of what is usually considered a benign experience. After all, what does occur at midnight in a circus? Eerie, at best. And the cover art is great!
The standout stories are the ones that linger after the book is read. These include “The White Seal Maid,” an interpretation of selkie lore; “Wilding,” where Central Park events morph into the sinister; and “Dog Boy,” which tracks the worst case of like father like son. Read this book and marvel at Jane Yolen’s imagination and craft. Recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a review copy.