In this collection of eleven short stories, the reader encounters love in its myriad forms – romance, but familial love and friendship and love of duty too – all splashed with plenty of fantasy.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did not recognize Jane Yolen right away – she has written over four hundred books, and it turns out that though I have not read any of them, I knew plenty of them. Anyway I have rectified that sad oversight with The Scarlet Circus.
Though the stories are for the most part classic romantic fantasy, they don’t have much in common thematically. Instead they all share a lovely, whimsical feel, whether they end happily or sadly or in an ambivalent way. They have a fairytale quality to them that makes for light reading. I also liked the short essay by Yolen about writing romance, and how it ties in with writing fantasy.
However, I did find some of the stories perhaps too light, without substance. They did not have much staying power, maybe because of that fairytale quality. I also wished the romance was a little more pronounced in some of the stories, as it shows up only in the faintest traces in those.
My favorite stories from this collection were “Dark Seed, Dark Stone,” about a king’s niece who wants to serve her uncle as her father did, and “The Sword and the Stone,” which was a humorous take on the King Arthur sword in the stone legend.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.