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The Bones of Ruin #1

The Bones of Ruin

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As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly a strange sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…​

She cannot die.

Haunted by her unnatural power and with no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she is. But that mission gets more complicated when she meets the dark and alluring Adam Temple, a member of a mysterious order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam seems to know much more about her than he lets on, and he shares with her a terrifying revelation: the world is ending, and the Committee will decide who lives…and who doesn’t.

To help them choose a leader for the upcoming apocalypse, the Committee is holding the Tournament of Freaks, a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. Adam wants Iris to be his champion, and in return he promises her the one thing she wants most: the truth about who she really is.

If Iris wants to learn about her shadowy past, she has no choice but to fight. But the further she gets in the grisly tournament, the more she begins to remember—and the more she wonders if the truth is something best left forgotten.

496 pages, Hardcover

First published September 7, 2021

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About the author

Sarah Raughley

10 books515 followers
Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. She is a huge fangirl of anything from manga to SF/F TV to Japanese Role Playing Games, but she will swear up and down that she was inspired by ~Jane Austin~ at book signings. On top of being a YA Writer, she is currently completing a PhD in English, because the sight of blood makes her queasy (which crossed Medical School off the list).

She is represented by The Bradford Literary Agency.

So far, you can also find her on Twitter, where work ethic goes to die.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 280 reviews
Profile Image for Chloe Gong.
Author 13 books19.5k followers
May 3, 2021
Bloodily spectacular. The Bones of Ruin builds page after page of visceral intrigue, steamrolling toward the end of the world in Victorian London. These characters could tear you apart, but you will love them all the same. Sarah Raughley’s world breathes true to the past and yet gleams brilliantly new.
Profile Image for Sarah Raughley.
Author 10 books515 followers
June 19, 2021
The Cover is out! ARCs distributed! Bones of Ruin coming September 7, 2021!

5 Things to expect from the Bones of Ruin

1) BIPOC characters front and center in Victorian (19th century) England!
2) Black female lead being bad ass, special and in charge!
3) REVERSE HAREM TROPE (for fans of Fushigi Yuugi, Ouran High School Host Club etc)
4) Lots of characters with their own powers and allegiances!
5) Intricate, Epic Fantasy Plot!

If this sounds good to you, pre-order now by going to my site: https://sarahraughley.com/books-by-sa...

See you on the other side!
Profile Image for Jasmine.
233 reviews219 followers
September 5, 2021
This historical fantasy is a lot of fun. It has all the hallmarks of a good YA book: a strong female lead character, a variety of cool magical powers, a competition, and teen angst.

Set in Victorian London, Iris is an African tightrope dancer in a circus. She showed up one day without a single memory of her past. She is desperate to regain her memories, so when Lord Adam Temple offers to assist her in remembering, she is willing to accept his help. In return, Adam needs two things from Iris. The first, he wants her to join the team he is building to compete in the “Tournament of Freaks”. The second, he needs Iris to find someone for him.

Adam Temple belongs to an uber-elite club known as The Enlightenment Committee. This committee believes that the world will soon come to an end, and that they are the ones that can control who will survive the apocalypse.

This book highlighted the barbarity and racist practices of the nineteenth century.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this. There’s a decent amount of world-building without any info-dumping. The Tournament was fun, seeing everyone’s powers displayed. There’s a shapeshifter, a mind-controller, a teen who can warp time, and many other characters with fantastical abilities.

Iris is a sharp-witted, lovable character. I mean that literally. Nearly all the boys compete for Iris’ attention.

The romance is probably my least favourite aspect of this book. The author said that this is a reverse harem trope, and that’s true. Iris has three love interests, which would be fine with me, the more the merry, except there is zero communication between Iris and her bevy of boys. Tensions rise and awkward encounters ensue. This is YA, so it’s all very PG.

With that said, I can’t wait to read the next instalment of this new YA series.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the arc in exchange for my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Shawna Finnigan.
473 reviews312 followers
March 6, 2022

It’s hard to rate this one. While some parts were somewhat likable, I absolutely despised other parts of the book. I can summarize the feel of this book with one sentence: it had the feel of a classic book in terms of both writing style and pacing but it also attempted to be a dating sim/game at the same time and it didn’t succeed at either of those successfully. This description of the book makes sense if you read about the author at all. She has a PhD in English (so she presumably studied the classics) and her writing has been inspired by Japanese role-playing games (aka dating sims where you play the role of a girl who has multiple men falling at her feet for no reason). It just didn’t quite work for me, but it wasn’t completely awful.

I disliked most of the characters in this book. Jinn was the only character I felt truly attached to, but at the same time, it was hard to get attached to any of the characters because of the way they were written. The characters could snap on the flip of a dime and suddenly do something that made no sense in terms of how normal people would act or they simply did something that didn’t fit with their personality. These random acts included the majority of the romance, which makes it no surprise that I didn’t enjoy the romance. Men kept falling in love with Iris after only a glance at her despite her proving that she wasn’t good enough for any of them. It made no sense. The women were also constantly fighting and hating each other for no reason. I guess in the end two of them sort of ended up getting along, but I got no girl power feels from this book that was written by a woman and that deals with the topic of sexism. It’s one thing to have strong female characters and it’s another thing to not have them tear each other down for seemingly no reason.

As for the plot, the book was split into three parts with each having drastically different pacing and different main focuses in their section. Part one was a complete bore to get through. I almost DNFed the book because of part one. The characters all started off awful and it was extremely confusing at times. I’m glad that I stuck around because part two got more interesting. I would say I generally enjoyed the trials in part two despite the fact that they got really dark at random times. It bordered on horror in some sections of part two, but part two was mostly like a fun tournament with contestants who had magical powers. It’s what I wanted from this book. Part three wasn’t particularly awful, but I didn’t like the direction that the story took in part three. It felt very rushed like it was just trying to set up book two and this section quickly turned characters against each other just to fasten the plot. If part three had carried on with the trials started in part two, then I’m sure it would’ve been more enjoyable. The ending in part three ultimately left me unsatisfied and thoroughly confused. The storyline following the main characters suddenly cuts off with no resolution while there’s a final chapter following characters that weren’t at all in the previous 99% of the book.

There were also two major plot holes in this book that annoyed me to no end. The first one was that the characters use these blades in their tightrope show, so I’m assuming they aren’t too sharp so as not to cut each other and not to cut the rope that they were on up high in the air. However, all of a sudden they randomly start using them as weapons. It just doesn’t add up. The second big plot hole contains spoilers so I don’t recommend clicking the spoiler tag unless you’ve finished the book.

The only other major thing I have to mention is that there was a random unnecessary explicit sex scene added in to the book that annoyed me to no end. I don’t mean explicit in that every detail is given, but I mean explicit in the context that this book is marketed as young adult and most young adult books just hint at sex occurring instead of outright stating what’s happening with some detail. It’s also the only gay representation in this book, but the sex scene had questionable consent and a character was watching the couple without the couple knowing. It made me super uncomfortable. If you’re going to include a gay couple, do it right. It feels like this couple was added only for “gay rep” or “diversity points” because it didn’t make sense in the context of the rest of the story at all.

It took me a while to decide on my star rating, but I’ve decided that three stars probably reflects my thoughts best. The bad parts of the story balanced out the good parts of the story, making this just an okay read for me. I’m undecided about whether or not I’ll read the sequel, but I’m currently leaning toward skipping the sequel when it comes out.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book through a Goodreads giveaway.
Profile Image for ~ a foray in fantasy ~.
271 reviews260 followers
March 5, 2022
Idk… I just felt so disconnected from the story and the characters.

The subplot about human zoos was horrifying, but definitely something I’d never heard of. Yet another disgusting act by the British Empire.

Major CW for cannibalism 🤮
Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
491 reviews669 followers
September 8, 2021
Iris has no memories and she's not really trying to discover the truth. She's working as a tightrope walker in a traveling circus to make a living. Her grace and agility help her through these dangerous stunts but she also has a secret. She cannot truly die. It's something she's kept hidden for 10 years now. One day while performing in the streets before a big show in London, she sees a man she recognizes but she's not sure where she knows him from. This causes her slip and fall to what should be her death. The crowd saw her neck snap! But instead she's able to wake up and walk away seemingly unharmed.

After boss discovers her secret and attempts to exploit her to pay off her debts she escapes from the circus and tracks down the man who made her fall. The man Adam knows her past but insists he must discover the truth on her own little by little. But he also wants her to help him find his father before the rest of the secret committee he's involved in realizes that his father is still alive.

Her ability to allude death makes her a target for everyone. She was getting kidnapped every few chapters it seemed. And while Iris is safe from death, the people around her are not. So in her quest to discover her past she has to reckon with how her team is putting their lives at risk to help her.

The Fantastic Freaks are like mutants with special powers who all have a connection to an explosion at a fair in South Kensington. Most of these freaks are also anomalies because of their race and ethnicity compared to the people of London. This allowed the opportunity to introduce characters that hailed from far corners of the world. It's not the main focus but the book does still show some of the discrimination Iris receives as a Black woman during that time period without naming the slurs she's called on page.

The harem didn't work for me. Iris has three men in love with her and in this story it just felt unnecessary. I understood Jinn had a connection with her as her partner in the circus so there was an unrequited love story going on there. But Adam was just in love with the idea of her. And Max I'm not sure what drew him to love her at first sight at all. I didn't feel the chemistry was even there between them to warrant his pining. It teetered into not like other girls territory. Also I would've loved for this story to dive deeper into the men's backgrounds so I could have a better connection to them.

People who are very visual when they read fantasies and are able to picture the setting in their heads like a movie will really enjoy the atmosphere that's built up in this.

I wasn't sure how to rate this one. It was engaging and I was invested in the mystery but it moves at such a slow and steady pace that it's very easy to put this book down and not feel the immediate urgency to pick it back up. At some points in part 2 I felt like the story was coasting along and then something big would happen and I was engaged again. Once more about Iris' past was revealed I needed to know the outcome. Part 3 was where it all came together for me and I felt that urgency to know what happened next. I was actually able to enjoy the team dynamic and the humor in some moments despite the seriousness of the events taking place. I was hooked and started racing towards the end. If you want a fantasy set in a different world than the norm that you can slow read then check this one out.

3.25 stars!

Profile Image for myo ✧༺ ༘♡ ༻∞.
741 reviews6,453 followers
February 7, 2023
this book deserves so much more praise!!! i think it was such a fun and unique story, i do feel like the romance could’ve been better which is crazy cus there’s 3 love interest but i had such a good time reading this. it genuinely was unlike anything i’ve read so far
Profile Image for Leo.
4,300 reviews384 followers
April 15, 2022
I'm conflicted on what to rate this book. Some parts I really enjoyed and for the most part it was a story I got very invested in. Although I can see some points made by other reviewers. Still I found the story rather unique and intruiging
Profile Image for cherelle.
180 reviews155 followers
October 2, 2022
"A promise made between a young man and a corpse in the middle of the night."

A supernatural hunger games that was searingly dak, set in post-apocalyptic Victorian London, The Bones of Ruin was such a ride, albeit the letdown in pacing and plot towards the end.

Read my review on my blog!

Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse and Turn the Pages Tours for providing me with an ARC of The Bones of Ruin in exchange for a sincere review.
Profile Image for Maddie (Inking & Thinking).
170 reviews126 followers
September 4, 2021
⭐️ 3 Stars ⭐️

Welcome back to another review! Today's review will be on The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley! When I saw Turn the Pages Tour post the signup for this tour, I just knew that I wanted to be a part of it! Now let's get into it!

The Bones of Ruin takes place in a post-apocalyptic world with a Victorian London setting. Fierce competition with supernatural kids, hidden secrets, and a society full of influential people.

Even though this book takes place in Victorian London, full of dark magic and secrets, the author isn't afraid to show that it's not so great for our black main character, Iris, or any person of color.

She isn't afraid to tackle deep subjects such as racism, sexism, and much more. Raughley tied these things seamlessly into the story and made it present enough that it stuck out in your mind.

“My body is my own. My heart is my own. My fate is my own”

Iris was a compelling character to follow in this story. She remembers almost nothing of her past life and spends the book trying to unravel all of the secrets. At first, she is hesitant to find out the truth, but when she thrusts herself into a competition forced to trying to put the puzzle together.

Iris almost seems like this untouchable character, since you know, she can't die. But the author doesn't allow this to be the case. Due to this little detail, it turns the tension down a lot. You never expect Iris to die, and you'll know she'll survive in every single fighting scenario. Raughley pushes Iris into extreme situations displaying her vulnerability. But Iris tends to lean towards the mary sue character type despite these advancements.

The puzzle is put together, piece by piece. Tension rises as the mystery slowly unravels. Here and there, misleading clues take us off track. By the end, all comes to light. A brilliant mystery crafted with such elegance that you don't realize how much time has passed.

“I won't let you people take anymore away from me!”

The romance was a bit questionable in this book. I know a bunch of readers tends to dislike love triangles. This book does not only contain a love triangle but a love square. The first time I've ever seen a love square, but I don't know if I'm a fan of it. Out of all of the potential love interests, there was only one that I could see working out. Iris and this particular love interest had chemistry, and you could see they had a bond with one another.

The squad surrounding Iris was a definite hit from the countless times they planned together and save each other from near-death (except Iris). The constant bickering between them had me cracking up at times. Some of the characters did feel undeveloped at times, so I wish more time was spend on getting to know them more besides Iris all the time. But Iris isn't the only one to contain superpowers but all of them. But they don't know how they got them.

“What?" Max and Jinn both said at the same time but for different reasons.”

“Max seemed to perk up at the sound of his name even if he hadn't heard the context while Jinn responded to Iris's offhand remark with an awkwardly stiff expression.”

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book! Though some flaws held it back, some elements such as a puzzle needing to be solved, an interesting main character, and a setting that help to enhance the story.

A big thank you to Turn the Pages Tours as well as the author and publisher for providing me with an early copy of this book! Quotes are taken from an unfinished version and may be different when the book is published.
Profile Image for Jess (oracle_of_madness).
684 reviews45 followers
August 6, 2021
Thank you Netgalley for this arc!!

Iris is an African tightrope dancer in a circus and the setting of Victorian London (which is so cool!). And, Iris has a secret she holds very close... she cannot die! However, she has absolutely no memory of who she is exactly and this search for her past becomes a big part of the plot. But when she meets Adam Temple everything begins to get more complicated and she is pulled into a tournament with many other characters that have really cool powers and abilities.

This book was so interesting and I'm curious to know where the next book will take me. However, I did not love the characters and the way they interacted. I feel like they just weren't as complete feeling to me so I didn't feel a strong connection and that made the dialog feel slightly forced at times.

I loved this world, especially at the time period, and do recommend this as a unique look at dark historical fantasy that is heaped in magic!

I'd like to add a trigger warning for racism that is taking place in the Victorian London setting, definitely part of this time period but I want anyone reading this to be aware of it.
Profile Image for Lauren.
120 reviews
September 10, 2021
Finished it in a day, gave up on the writing by the fourth chapter, gave up on characters at around the first third, gave up on the plot about halfway through. The only thing, and I swear, THE ONLY THING keeping me going was the last trial of the tournament, and then even THAT was a letdown. Words cannot express how much I hated this entire reading experience.

Before I start this rant, the most pressing question I have is this— why are tightrope dancers using actual fighting quality blades for their performances? The two tightrope performers kept referring to their weapons as the ones they took with them from the circus, but like?? Decorative blades are not the same thing as real ones???

Let me preface this by saying that I started reading this prepared to love it. It had my name all over it. A tightrope dancer who was part of a circus, who can't die. A Victorian London underground Illuminati-style coven, where they collect people with inhuman abilities to fight to the death in a TOURNAMENT. I was practically salivating over it.

The first thing that got to me was the writing. It became very quickly apparent that the prose wasn't the best, which surprised me because I'm pretty sure the author is getting her PhD in English something. So much *telling* that characters had "intimacy [that] was so quietly palpable".

Dude. I get it. You do not need to clarify every single thing the characters say. You don't need to tell me that when you say this person is at eleven o'clock, you meant it as a direction, not a time. PLEASE vary your sentences. Stop beginning sentences with the characters' names, I notice. Your action sequences are poorly written, you don't know where the climax is supposed to be, my eyes glaze over all of it. You're killing me.

And then the characters. I heard on Marissa Meyers' podcast with the author that when you get introduced to new characters, you could immediately tell what vibe they gave off. Apparently that was because she was trying to emulate anime style. I don't know anything about anime, but the way it was done here was so *bad*. I could pin down the tropes immediately. None of the betrayals or character twists surprised me, and all of the characters could NOT stop talking about their damn trauma and baggage. How many times do you have to beat the reader over the head with a dead/missing sibling for me to understand that they are **edgy** and **suffering**?

I hated the MC, Iris. Amnesiac MCs almost never work for me but this was ridiculous. The author tried passing her off as this carefree girl that was vain and teasing and asked for ribbons, and for a bit it worked, and then it all went to hell and she lost all her charisma and became an overpowered oh SO special MC.

The reverse harem, as all harem-related tropes tend to be, was absolutely ridiculous and completely pulled me out of the story. All the love interests [Except Adam, I'll give him credit for that] couldn't pull their heads out of their dicks for one second and think about the situation at hand. Instead, it was all ooooh Iris said she spent time with this guy, does that mean she loves him???? Spare. Me.

By this time, I was reading for the plot alone. Even though the tournament had barely started, I was BEGGING for it to be the only thing to deliver on what made me read this book. Nope. Just... nope. It quickly became clear that this book wasn't low stakes at all, and by the end of it (mild spoiler) the stakes become complete 'end of the world' levels. And yes, I looked on Goodreads and the author did say this was epic fantasy so I should've known better, but I was really excited about a low-ish stakes plot that stayed contained within its boundaries.

The whole thing that interested me about this world was seeing how the obnoxiously rich and 'freakishly' inhuman would hide from the normal Victorian London society. I wanted the UNDERGROUND part of it all, but that was thrown to the wind within the first ten-ish chapters.

I can't remember ever being this pissed off about an idea not matching its execution, and I've got the stirrings of a 'revenge' story where I write the book I wish this was. No end of the world shit, no greater plan, no amnesia. Just some good old-fashioned killer circus people with slightly odd abilities, an underground tournament to the death run by rich patrons that *actually* stay underground, and at most one (1) love interest.

I finished it, so my policy automatically gives this 2 stars, but I can't remember ever being this disappointed in a premise before.
Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 21 books374 followers
June 15, 2021
Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of The Bones of Ruin in exchange for an honest review.

This book has an absolutely fantastic plot but unfortunately, I'm a character reader which is definitely where it's lacking.

The Bones or Ruin follows African circus performer in historical London who's harboring a big secret: she can't die. When she's discovered, she must join a dangerous tournament with other super-powered people for the entertainment of a high society secret society trying to find a leader for the apocalypse if she wants a chance at finding out what she can't remember about her mysterious past.

Right? RIGHT! That's so cool. I wanted to love this so badly but everyone felt like such a stalk character that it was really difficult to become invested in any of their stories.

Iris is clearly supposed to be a powerful MC and she has a few lines that are supposed to be and should have been huge and impactful, but since her personality is basically "perfect person who every man instantly loves and every woman wants to be besties with", it falls flat. Her original love interest, Jinn, is described as having a kind of enemies-to-lovers arc with her but they're both so clearly in love and openly affectionate that when they trade quips it feels like they're doing it because that's the cool thing to do in YA right now, not because that's their general dynamic.

Max, in my opinion, was the worst offender. I originally really liked his character but something about his humour style always seemed to clash with his actual personality and role within the story and for some reason every time he was on page, I couldn't help but get pulled out of the story and find myself day dreaming about The Gilded Wolves instead. Going into writing this review, I now realize that this was literally pitched as "for fans of The Gilded Wolves" which might explain why Max felt like a caricature of a character from there instead of one who belongs in this narrative.
Profile Image for Brinley.
1,016 reviews68 followers
September 3, 2021
Id been wanting to read this one for months, so the fact that I disliked it has me so angry. I mean come on, we have a deadly tournament, circus scenes, and a gorgeous cover. Somehow though, not one of these elements managed to hook me.

I think the reason for this is because this entire story was so jumbled. So much was happening, there were way too many moving parts. By the end, I was just watching the story happen because I had no idea what was happening. I lost all interest in the characters, and even though the stakes were high, didn't feel a single emotional connection to any aspect of the story.

Speaking of the characters, similar to the plot, they all faded into one mass. A few names stick out to me, but even then, I couldn't manage to describe them. I can't even tell you why this is. The author attempted to give them development, but it didn't work at all.

After suffering through 500 pages of this, I just wish it had gone through some harsher editing. If 100 pages and a plotline had been chopped, this could've been amazing. That didn't happen though, and this just ended up being a read I'd like to forget.

Thanks to Turn the Page Tours for providing a free copy!
Profile Image for Clarissa.
124 reviews
June 3, 2021
I can't finish this book. I loved the premise and the characters and the writing but this book was just not for me. The pacing was slow and I could not find it in me to finish this book. I am so bored of it.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,408 reviews190 followers
February 26, 2022
Read with the B2 Weird book club on Discord as our February book pick!

This was amazing!! Also so bloody and violent, lived for it all.

The Bones of Ruin is a historical fantasy about African tightrope walker Iris. Iris is used to being deemed "strange". But she also has a secret: she cannot die. When she meets Adam Temple, he promises her answers about her past she can't remember. In exchange for answers, she must become his champion in a Tournament of Freaks hosted by the mysterious and insidious Enlightenment Committee. To make matters worse, Adam tells Iris the world is supposedly ending and the Committee will be the ones to decide who lives and who dies.

Y'all this was such a wild ass ride. Secrets, betrayal, mystery, strange powers, competitions! I freaking enjoyed every single aspect of this book. Honestly, I have nothing but good vibes about this story and I cannot wait for it to continue. Also, I think Iris shouldn't have a love triangle, the right answer is #WhyChoose and she can have a beautiful polyamorous relationship with all the boys (except Adam, we don't like or trust him).

Rep: African cishet female MC, BIPOC cishet male side character, BIPOC female side character, MLM side pairing.

CWs: Violence, murder, death, racism, mentions of eugenics, torture, non-consensual medical experimentation, cannibalism, blood, gore, gun violence, injury/injury detail, fire, medical trauma. Moderate: sexism, misogyny, slavery, trafficking, mentions of sex work. Minor: suicide attempt, xenophobia, sexual harassment.
Profile Image for Laurence.
188 reviews20 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 3, 2021
***DNF’d 74 pages in***

Well…this was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and unfortunately I just couldn’t get into it.

All of the introduced characters so far were just so bland and didn’t stand out to me. I usually love stories where everyone has different abilities, and I love competitions/tournaments, but I just couldn’t continue with this.

I MIGHT give this book another chance down the line.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,589 reviews191 followers
September 1, 2021
A Victorian setting, a powerful young woman who’s lost her memories, a secret society comprised of the richest and most powerful (and incidentally and unsurprisingly white), a group of adolescents from all over the world who have strange and amazing powers and are dubbed the "Fanciful Freaks" by the London press, and a tournament to the death. This book has so much going for it, and though I liked a lot of things about it, I also had a couple of issues.
I loved that the cast of characters is predominantly BIPoC, and the action is set in London in the Victorian period. England, and London in particular, has had people for centuries from all over the world reside there, contrary to the belief that England has been totally white forever.
Here the BIPoC characters have a variety of powers and these people are brought together by the Enlightenment Club (an on-the-nose and ironic name if I’ve ever heard one), a group of super rich, super powerful people who firmly believe the world will end, and they want to be the ones in charge afterwards. They also see the BIPoC teens with supernatural powers as little more than monsters, or barely civilized pets.
Main character Iris, formerly from Africa, and now working for a barely reputable circus owner as one of a pair of tightrope walkers, works with a close-mouthed young man from Turkey, known as Jinn.
Iris’ memories begin five years ago, and she’s desperate to recover who she was prior to this time, and so when she’s teased with the possibility of finding herself, she and eventually Jinn are dragged into the clutches of the Enlightenment Club, along with several other supernaturally powered teens. The teens are organized into teams representing each member of the Club, and must fight to the death for money.
I started to lose the thread of the narrative once the tournament began. The teens had to find various objects located in different parts of the city. The objects' purposes are unknown to the teens, and there are keys and other things involved. The point of the tournament was rapidly lost to me, as much of the book was spent in the teams fighting each other, people dying violently, betrayals and double crosses, and romance angst between the boys on Iris' team as they do a lot of chest-thumping to impress the young woman.
I also had a hard time keeping track of all the different characters, and I wished Jinn and Max had not fought with each other so much, as it seemed Iris’ team was always too volatile to ever work towards a common goal. I also had some difficulty understanding what Adam’s goals really were, but I think they’ll be revealed more clearly in the next book. (He's a member of the Club who doesn't seem as odious as the others are.)
I actually wish this book had been a little shorter, as there was so much going on, and I got lost in the many machinations and fights than once.
That said, I liked Iris, and even when she kept finding out new and terrible things about herself or the Enlightenment Club, I liked that she kept striving to find a more productive way to move forward, whether with her team or with finding out truths about herself.
I am not sure right now whether I want to follow the story onwards to the next book, however much I liked parts of it.
My rating: 3.5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Shuster Canada for this ARC in exchange for a review.
Profile Image for Shilo Quetchenbach.
1,222 reviews53 followers
August 21, 2021
I struggled with how to rate this book for pretty much the entire time I read it. Did I love it? Did I hate it? Was it good or great or meh? It's really rare for me to come across a book that isn't easy for me to rate. In the end I settled on liking it.

The plot was certainly compelling and interesting. It managed to stay away from a lot of standard YA tropes and plot types which left me constantly guessing. I did feel that towards the end of the book the plot lost some cohesion and several threads were fumbled, but then it was very complex. Really it was handled quite well overall.

The characters were interesting but they fell a bit flat and I wish there had been more character development. Aside from Iris and Max they were all rather static throughout. I also wish we'd seen the side characters more rather than focusing so completely on Iris. That said, it was brilliant to see so many POC and queer characters in a Victorian London setting. We definitely need more of that.

I also love how racism and colonialism and the racial horrors of the enlightenment era were explored. They don't often play such a large role in YA -- or fantasy in general -- and they definitely livened things up and increased the stakes. And made the Enlightenment Committee even more vile.

The love.... square? Was excessive, however. I'm not a fan of the love triangle or reverse harem tropes, and when every boy inexplicably falls for the lead girl it gets a bit old. I'm also not sure why Iris seemed so torn between them and couldn't figure out who she liked? Jinn is the clear contender, in my book, as he's the only one who genuinely cares for her with no ulterior motives.

Jacques and Gram were incredibly creepy from the start and just got creepier as the book progressed. I would definitely not want to meet them in a dark alley -- or, y'know, anywhere ever. The Fool was also rather creepy and I feel like there's a lot to him left open to explore in future books. All of the other champions were sympathetic and I would have liked to see more of them teaming up.

I can see how it sets things up for an interesting sequel -- especially with that last chapter! Talk about more questions than answers. If anything, there were a few *too* many questions and parts where the reader is missing vital information for my tastes. I get that things are a mystery to Iris. This could, however, just be me disliking being kept in the dark.

The biggest stumbling block for me was the writing style. I just didn't jive with it, and I find it incredibly frustrating when I'm into a story but I feel like I'm reading around the words to get to it. It also made it very difficult to get back into the flow of the story whenever I had to take a break. And for a story that was so high-octane --or should have been, what with the high stakes and sheer amount of blood and gore --it dragged a bit. Think the Hunger Games, but slower-paced.

I'm glad I read it, though, and I'll definitely consider picking up the sequel when it's out.

*Thanks to Netgalley, Simon Pulse and Turn the Pages Tours for providing me with an e-arc for review.
Profile Image for rose ★.
225 reviews126 followers
January 28, 2022
the only reason i read this is because chloe gong wrote the blurb in the cover and DONT LISTEN TO ME LISTEN TO MISS CHLOE AND GO READ THIS BOOK RN GO GO GO
Profile Image for T.J.
94 reviews1 follower
November 8, 2022
1.75/5⭐️ |

I found the story idea to be interesting: ✅ - I remember falling in love with the back-cover blurb when I read it!

There were few to no instances in which the writing or writing style detracted from my reading experience in a jarring way: ✅ - The writing style was fine.

I found the plot to be well executed (little to no plot holes, appropriate pacing): ❌ - This book was the first book that I tabbed all of the way through, and a lot of my plot-point/information tabs are clustered together towards the end of the book. That tells me that all of the big reveals were written in the end, without much pacing. I also enjoyed the first 1/5-1/4 of the book much more than the last 4/5-3/4.

I found the world building to be immersive and particularly well done: ✅ - A science-fantasy reality was crafted atop historical fiction, which is actually something that I enjoy. The world wasn’t really confusing to me at any point.

I liked the main character or felt personally connected to them in some way: ❌ - In the very beginning, I quite liked Iris. Towards the end, she had me rolling my eyes and sighing in exasperation and screaming in frustration and…well, you get it.

I adored the chemistry between the MC and the love interest/other significant characters: ❌ - I couldn’t stand Iris’ chemistry with TWO OUT OF THE THREE MEN that were chasing after her, and her chemistry with the 3rd guy was boring and uninteresting, in my opinion.

This book made me reflect on some aspect of life in a meaningful or socially productive way: ✅ - There were parts of the novel that touched on the mistreatment of African people by other African tribes (I forgot the specific names of the tribes/people, so please forgive my ignorance. Perhaps that’s something I’ll revisit in the book for further reflection). The novel also dived into the exploitation of African people by savage Europeans who exploited them in the name of research and entertainment. Those passages were very saddening and eye-opening.

I was moved emotionally at some point during my reading experience: ❌ - This book never felt particularly heartwarming or heart-wrenching to me.

I was satisfied with the ending: ❌ - The characters seemed to unravel towards the end. I also thought that storylines/plot lines were rushed or pushed to the side in a way that felt unnatural (that final confrontation scene, in particular).

There is a page-turning, unputdownable element to this story, and I would re-read happily or recommend passionately: ❌ - It took me quite a while to finish this book. NEARLY THREE MONTHS OF MY LIFE!

*EXTRA CREDIT* Half point available for a book with some intriguing albeit minor element that makes me feel inclined to award a slightly higher rating: ❌

*Petty Privilege* Half point deducted because I’m petty. There was an element that made me feel angry or uncomfortable or unhappy or annoyed, and I therefore feel inclined to award a slightly lower rating: ✅ - I hated every kiss scene in this book. I don’t really want to go into why that’s upsetting to me. Hmm, maybe I’ll go into it anyway. I’m a sucker for a strong romantic sub plot, and if I can’t have that, then I need a strong friendship/relationship of some sort to pull me through the novel. I didn’t find Iris’ connection to anyone particularly strong or enjoyable, which made the story dry and aggravating. I did mention that this section allows me to be petty, right? My apologies!

Star Rating: [3.5/10 points] ➡️ 1.75⭐️

(1 point = 1/2⭐️)
Profile Image for Eule Luftschloss.
1,638 reviews52 followers
July 23, 2021
trigger warning

An African tightrope dancer has to quit her job as people become suspicious and she has to hide her immortality. The man who gives her shelter has his own agenda, one she cannot fathom.

Imagine the Hunger Games, but every contestant is an X-Men, and it's set in victorian London. Oh, and the protagonist is a Mary Sue.

Iris suffers from amnesia, but feels herself inexplicably drawn to a few people - this is what prompted her to join the circus in the first place, and it was good hiding place, always on the move. Everyone has things to hide, or rather doesn't want to share with their fellows. Till now, she was able to hide every time she died, as it mostly happened at practise, but at the beginning of this novel, it happens while being on stage, in front of many, many curious eyes.

I had problems at the beginning of this novel with the writing style, which remembered me a lot of bad fanfics I read. The only reason I didn't dnf this was because of the rules of the readathon I am currently doing (shout out to the Path- or Pantheon from the Mythtake bookclub!).
It got better after the first few hundred pages.

Then, my problems had to do with Iris herself. She is not like other girls, she is . Everyone seems to fall in love with her, there are three guys who'd like to be in a romantic or sexual relationship with her.
Iris has no memories in her brain, but her muscle memory works from her past life, and she's able to fight. Her magical abilities grow and grow and grow. She's very pretty, and we're told she never makes mistakes.
While she is presented as this active and intelligent character, she is passive in so many situations, until she is attacked and reflexes and instinct kick in. She is boring. Nearly every other character we meet would have made a better protagonist.
As if that were not enough, she is constantly fainting. Her ability to heal herself even from mortal wounds means that she loses conscience but comes back when her body is ready, depending on how grave the injury was. Though we're being told she didn't die that often while being in the circus, as soon as the plot gets started, she's is dying every few chapters. If she doesn't die, she faints for real or is drugged to sleep. It would be more believeable to be injured frequently than to die so often.
Iris fainting is used as a plot device to end chapters, which annoyed me very much. There are other ways to do that.

I feel like I can't even say much about the writer's abilities because this feels so like a newbie writing, she doesn't even seem to have found her own voice. Of course, it may be that she does not grow with her work, but since I can't look into the future all I can say about it is that I would have to come back a few more books down the line and give her another try.
I won't continue this series. This was too chunky for how much I had to motivate myself to continue.

The arc was provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Shannon.
4,021 reviews184 followers
October 15, 2021
A fantastic historical adventure fiction book featuring Iris, an African tightrope dancer who can't die and is determined to discover why and where she came from.

A cross between The night circus and The hunger games, this was an edge of your seat thrill ride set in a Victorian England on the brink of an apocalypse featuring a Tournament of Freaks that pits a rag tag group of characters with unique supernatural abilities against one another to win a coveted prize.

This story had it all: romance, intrigue, betrayal, three dimensional characters you can't help rooting for. I loved every second and especially that it was written by a talented Canadian author! It was also great on audio narrated by Ione Butler. Highly recommended, especially for fans of The invisible life of Addie La Rue.
Profile Image for Toya (the reading chemist).
1,126 reviews97 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
September 10, 2021
This is a temporary DNF at 50%. The pacing of the story has really slowed down at this point, so I need to switch to audio since I am struggling to keep going.
Profile Image for Laura.
772 reviews53 followers
September 6, 2021
This book is said to be like The Last Magician and The Gilded Wolves, which I can definitely see with the clues, Orders, artifacts, challenges and mystery.

The book starts in a circus in the late 1880s with the usual oddities and attractions. Iris the African tightrope walker is a big draw but when she gets distracted by someone she sees in the audience, from her past, she slips and falls. 

This someone belongs to an Enlightenment Committee and wants to recruit her to his team for the Tournament of Freaks. There seem to be quite a few individuals like herself that have unique gifts and abilities. Hers being that she can not die.

There was a lot of history that was woven into this story and the history of what Europeans did to Africans by way of entertainment was appalling. There is mysticism, history, fantasy and real world all woven in and the storytelling is richer for it. The story of the bones was very intriguing but I don't want to give any plot points away cause it was pretty cool unraveling that and it's the title of the book.

The committee is like a CIA/MI6 but working outside the government and against the government in a way. They are very powerful and anyone with too much information will be disposed of if they are too chatty.  The freaks they have on their teams are all cutthroat and the challenges range from deadly physical exhibitions to riddles to be solved.

Iris and her former performer partner Jinn also have growing chemistry during their act as The Nubian Princess and The Turkish Prince and again during this challenge as he finds her after she leaves the circus. As they share a bed during the competition (don't worry it's YA, no sexual activity noted in this book, chemistry and slow burn though).  There was also another team mate that showed interest in Iris that set up a possible love triangle. But Iris was also not trying to be with anyone, she was trying to uncover her past with the help of her patron who knew who she was. I didn't mention she had no memory after an explosion that happened years before.  So much mystery and intrigue you need to read it! I didn't tell you all the millions of details you need to piece all this mess I just gave you together. But I hope it convinces you to add it to your TBR and read it!

This gave me some Queen of the Damned type vibes since it ended on a cliffhanger with someone we hadn't met but had heard mentioned.

Goodreads is already showing that this will be a trilogy so I am excited to see where this story leads us and if there will be an apocalypse or if someone will save the day.

Honestly, I can't tell if anyone is a hero at this point. And please Gram stay the hell away, blech! 

Definitely recommended for those fantasy lovers, it is a bit bloody so be prepared for that! 

TW: Cannibalism, violence
Profile Image for Tina.
1,758 reviews280 followers
Want to read
April 17, 2021
That cover is giving me life! And the MC is an African tight rope walker in an AU Victorian London!
Profile Image for Arlene♡.
458 reviews103 followers
February 10, 2022
3.5 this was good, not bad at all, Iris had a lot going on and this tournament 🏟 of freaks she was forced to participate in to find out her true self was a journey. Very Hunger Games in an Victorian setting. There was a bit of romance, danger, death, mystery, joy, resolution…

I’m very happy I was able to read and listen to this book. The narrator did a great job.
Profile Image for Melanie | pagesandtealeavess.
192 reviews1 follower
July 2, 2021
Iris is described in the synopsis, as a tightrope dancer from Victorian London. I thought the circus would have a more prominent role in the novel but outside of the first few chapters it has little to do with the actual plot which was disappointing.

I ordinarily prefer plot driven over character driven stories. That being said this was a multi-layered plot that lacked character development and I DNF’d it at 67%. At first, I was hooked by the prologue that made Adam seem like a sort of assassin about to double cross a society of assassins by faking a murder and discovering some long lost key to taking down said assassin club. Afterwards, I just felt like a fish who was hooked on the line but the fisherman forgot to wheel the line in.

The character development was non-existent. I am actually struggling to think of a single adjective to describe any of the characters. Some characters' existences felt repetitive in that both their characteristics and purpose in relation to the plot could also be found in a different character.

Also the love square (I may be reaching here for a term but there were literally three boys in love with Iris). I really don’t understand what was so appealing about Iris that all the boys wanted her. The book never really explored why Jinn was drawn to Iris or what any of their interactions were like before she fell from the tightrope at the beginning of the novel. Adam wanted her because of what she represented and who she was. As for the third boy whose name escapes me, he loved her the moment he set eyes on her at a boxing match.

I also might have missed it but I still don’t think I completely understood why the “freaks” participated in this competition.

I also found the naming of a character “Fool” was kind of cringy.

My thanks to #Netgalley and #SimonandSchusterCanada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jenn (everythingshereads).
120 reviews75 followers
March 8, 2023
My honest opinion of this book is that I did not enjoy it. Usually there are elements of a story that I would totally adore, even if the book fell flat for me. With this book, it was just hard to pinpoint moments that I enjoyed. The story does have a strong start - we're introduced to a tightrope walker who is immortal? She cannot die.

Someone said that the beginning of the book reminded them of Heroes (the greatest TV show of our time) and I think I agree. There are kids with unexplained powers and the MC is just trying to figure out who she is and why she keeps coming back to life after endless gruesome deaths.

So yes, the premise was good but the execution was not that great. I read this for a book club with some friends and one of them literally said to me "just skip the entire middle and read chapter 79. You won't miss anything..." the entire middle of the book dragged. There was a lot of dialogue and shared experiences amongst the characters, but nothing of consequence happened to drive the story forward. It just felt like a lot of filler with no plot. This is one of my pet peeves and is probably the singular thing that would make me swear an author off forever.

I really wanted to enjoy the book and I hate that I didn't but I know others liked it so maybe it's just a preference thing on this end :)
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