Review of ‘The Circus Rose’

Now, this is a novel that will not be for everyone. The Circus Rose is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red, but the approach is unique.

An Interesting Approach to Storytelling

The Circus Rose

The Circus Rose
by Betsy Cornwell
Clarion Books

The reason this novel may not be for everyone is that while the story splits between Ivory and Rose, the prose changes. Ivory’s perspective traditional prose juxtaposes Rose’s poetic prose.

This approach is jarring at first, taking the reader out of the story because it disrupts the fluidity of the story. By constructing the story in this way, Cornwell risks alienating some of her readers because it does create this barrier between the reader and the story.

Moreover, while Ivory’s perspective is steady, at times, Rose’s perspective seems more like nonsense than actual storytelling.

Some readers may only want the story in verse or the traditional manner but combining them in the way to separate perspectives was unprecedented.

However, it does say much about the girls and their personalities, and it also highlights Cornwell’s ability to string together verse and storytelling. While going back and forth may be initially disruptive, once the reader continues reading, it becomes natural to go back and forth because it highlights the minds of the girls. Ivory is the more logical of the sisters, working to build and construct things while Rose, the performer, has her head up in the clouds. The change in the verse does say a lot about the girls.

Even when it seems disruptive, the fluidity of each perspective is evident. The reader does get to understand who these characters are and their relationship with one another and the world.

Noteworthy Representation

Cornwell’s storytelling may be initially jarring, but what she can do with the story is incredible. It is a fantasy world with a hint of steampunk to it that gives the story a well-rounded look at the world. However, what is interesting is the LGBTQ representation.

The Fae in this novel are non-binary, which is both clever, thoughtful, and unique. Never before have Fae been given this distinction, always referred to as “he” or “she.” Here they have their distinction of Fe, Fer, Fey, and it was genuinely impressive. It was remarkable to see the LGBTQ community represented in this way.

It was a thoughtful characteristic to put into the novel.

Final Thoughts

While The Circus Rose may not be for everyone, it is one worthy of a read because of how interesting it is. Cornwell has adapted this classic fairy tale and brought it to life with many unique spins capturing essential and powerful messages.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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Product Details:

Pub Date: June 16, 2020Page Count: 288ppAge Range: 12 & Over
ISBN: 978-1-3286-3950-9Publisher: Clarion BooksList Price: $17.99

The Circus Rose


Writing Quality


Character Development


"Couldn't Put It Down"-ness


Intellectual Depth





  • Interesting premise
  • LGBTQ representation.


  • Changes in verse disruptive.

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