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Calico Thunder Rides Again

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Most Fantastic Show on Earth...

Three years ago, the Ban changed everything, outlawing certain forms of magic and bringing about the rise of powerful crime syndicates. Now, speakeasies in every city sell illegal charms and jinxes, and bootleggers traffic restricted potion ingredients across the country. But even in this changing world, the magic of the circus still acts as a wondrous escape and provides entertainment for all.​

Jake Strickland owns one such circus, inherited after an accident ended his career as a rodeo dragon rider. He also inherited the circus’ financial troubles, but since the show became his, he’s slowly managed to turn it into a profitable business once more. Or at least, that’s what he thought.

When a dangerous mobster comes to collect an old debt, Jake resorts to desperate measures to get the money before a strict deadline. With lives and livelihoods at stake, he battles the clock, his responsibilities to the circus, and a longstanding personal grudge that has festered for years. Can he pay back the mob before it’s too late?

200 pages, Hardcover

Published November 5, 2019

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About the author

T.A. Hernandez

13 books65 followers
T. A. Hernandez is a science fiction and fantasy author and long-time fan of speculative fiction. She grew up with her nose habitually stuck in a book and her mind constantly wandering to make-believe worlds full of magic and adventure. She began writing after reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings many years ago and is now is happily engaged in an exciting and lifelong quest to tell captivating stories.

She is a clinical social worker and the proud mother of two girls. She also enjoys drawing, reading, graphic design, playing video games, riding her motorcycle, and making happy memories with her family and friends.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews404 followers
July 26, 2021
Ahoy there me mateys!  This book has been on me list ever since it was featured by Matey Lynn @ lynn'sbookblog in the SPFBO #6 in 2020 .  It's set in the 1920s America and features magic and a circus with fantasy animals.  It has an awesome cover and I took a chance.

I got this for a whole dollar and it was a pleasant, if simple, story that I read quickly.  While I loved the setting and animals, I felt that overall the major problem with this book was it was too light.  Nothing was completely fleshed out and I just wanted more.  More world-building, more character development, higher stakes for the plot, etc.  While I was rooting for the characters, I felt that the ending was too easy and didn't resolve all dangling threads.  Also the dragon didn't feature enough.

This felt like it would be a great book for younger readers if some of the plot points were changed.  This is one I would not reread and am mildly disappointed by.  It had some much unrealized potential.  Arrr!
Profile Image for Amy Campbell.
Author 9 books101 followers
January 26, 2022
I discovered this book on TikTok, and I'm so glad I did! It's hard to find books like this one because often when you find books with cowboys and magical/legendary creatures they're often more horror/weird western. Calico Thunder leans more heavily on the fantasy aspects, and I loved the blend of The Greatest Showman/fantasy/western. If you're looking for an unusual fantasy read, do yourself a favor and check this one out!
Profile Image for Amelia.
257 reviews18 followers
May 1, 2020
I LOVED this novel. Gangsters and a magical circus with griffins and dragons? I didn't know I needed this in my life, but I did. I love the characters and the ending was fantastic.
Profile Image for Erin Sky.
Author 5 books356 followers
October 27, 2019
This was SUCH a fun read!

Calico Thunder is one of my new favorite dragons, and I don't say that lightly. I do have a soft spot for dragons, but it isn't the kind of thing that makes me automatically love all dragons or all dragon books.

I LOVED this dragon, and I LOVED this book!!!

Jake owns a circus that he inherited from his father, but his dad wasn't so great--as either a dad or a circus owner. Jake's done a fantastic job turning things around, but when an old debt resurfaces--a debt to some very dangerous people--Jake and his animal-training girlfriend, Grace, might have to break the magic prohibition laws and whip up a little luck of their own, with the help of their magical menagerie.

Jake and Grace have such a wonderful and real relationship with each other. They both have their strengths and their flaws, and I just love the two of them together. Bruno, the enchanter, is another favorite. But the animals steal the show (figuratively, that is), playing a critical role in the story.

I love books that portray animals, especially fantastical creatures, as real. The griffins in the book borrow very real behaviors from both their cat and bird counterparts, combining them into a cohesive whole that felt so real they could have leaped off the page.

But Calico Thunder herself ... OMG. I want to take this dragon home with me and let her live in my backyard. She's perfect. A circus veteran, old and partially disabled, intelligent but with a very realistic animal sort of intelligence. T.A. Hernandez clearly gets animals. Better yet, she WRITES animals with the kind of flair and attention to detail that made this book (hopefully a series?) a new personal favorite.

P.S. I also had such good luck while reading it that I developed an instant superstition about this book being a lucky charm in its own right. Do with that what you will.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
30 reviews1 follower
November 6, 2019
Let me start by saying that Calico Thunder Rides Again is an absolute gem of a book! I was lucky enough to receive an advanced review copy, and I'm excited for everyone to read it now that it's been released into the wild!

This book is a fun ride from start to finish - prepare to be whisked away to a vibrant world of dragons, mobsters, and magic! T.A. Hernandez has crafted an "alternate" world, based on 1920's America, complete with Prohibition (or "the Ban", as it's called in the book)! Speakeasies sell illegal magic - if you're in the market for a luck potion, for example, you'll need to skirt the law to acquire one!

The circus, along with all the colourful characters within it, is bursting with life. The story follows Jake, a young cowboy who owns the magical Strickland's Circus, and the challenges he faces to keep it afloat and appease the sinister mobster who appears to collect on a debt Jake's father left behind.

T.A. Hernandez keeps the stakes high and handles the emotional depth of the characters and their struggles with skill. I felt the highs and lows of Jake's journey, hurt when he hurt, laughed when he laughed. The romance between him and Grace is weaved through the danger and uncertainty with skill, and the way they support each other through the good and the bad is beautiful.

CTRA is a thrilling read, quick and fun and full of life! It's clear that a lot of love and care went into writing this book - it feels authentic in its details, and the unique magic system creates a fantastic twist on the alternate history setting. I love the ending: there's room for more (if she decides to continue), but is closed in a way that feels complete and satisfying.
Profile Image for R.J..
Author 4 books63 followers
September 15, 2020
In this mystical circus adventure, we encounter dragons, dwarves, and enchanters in the big-top as they try to keep their livelihoods from falling into the hands of a mob.

Calico Thunder Rides Again is an adventurous story brimmed with risk, danger, and a little bit of romance. Readers will find themselves easily enchanted with Calico Thunder and many of the other spectacles that can be found at Strickland’s Circus! It’s a wild ride from beginning to end and while the story itself is very predictable, it is a rather satisfying story that makes you feel good upon finishing it.

All of the characters were charming and I really liked how their different personalities worked together to create such a tight-knit group–much more like a family than coworkers. And I think that captured the spirit of a circus very well.

One thing I do have to say though, is I really wish Calico Thunder had been more of a focal point in the storyline. With her being on the front cover, and the title being named after her, I really thought the story was about her. It wasn’t until about chapter six that I realised that the book was actually about Jake Strickland and not the beautiful calico dragon; she was just a background character, an object of interest at the most. And that made me very sad. I wanted to watch her acts and be around her, so that made Jake seem very boring to me. But towards the end, I enjoyed getting to know Jake and Grace as they did everything they could to save the circus.

Overall, I think Calico Thunder Rides Again is a charming story that many adventurers would enjoy! I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Content: There is infrequent and mild cursing present. Some implied [premarital] sex scenes in the form of mentioning “sneaking into each other’s rooms for late night meetings” and several non-detailed kisses. There is mild action and only a few mentions of blood, though not detailed. Trigger warnings include: Animal cruelty and abuse.

I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.

This is a LiteratureApproved.com Review.
Profile Image for Patrick Samphire.
Author 32 books166 followers
November 17, 2020
4 1/2 stars.

Calico Thunder Rides Again is an utterly charming short novel. It's set in an alternative 1920s America full of magic, mythical beasts, and gangsters. Jake Strickland inherited a travelling circus from his estranged father, but what he didn't realise was that he was also inheriting his father's debt to the mob, and now that debt has come true. Jake has only a month to raise an absurd amount of money or end up losing the circus that he has now come to love.

As I said, this is a charming novel, full of vivid characters and creative magic. The relationship between Jake, who owns the circus, and Grace, who looks after the mythical beasts, including the dragon, Calico Thunder, is complex, believable, and sometimes fraught.

Hernandez writes beautifully about the show, the characters who make up the circus performers, and manages to bring the era to colourful life.

If I have one complaint, it's that I would have liked to have spent a bit more time with Calico Thunder. The story is also quite short, not much longer than a novella, and as such it's fairly straightforward, but Hernandez still manages to build a believable and rich setting.

This novel was a semi-finalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and it absolutely deserved that accolade.

Profile Image for Livy.
259 reviews13 followers
February 24, 2021
Calico Thunder Rides Again is a book full of magic, wonder and some shady mob dealings all set around a circus. I mean what sounds better than that?

I loved learning all about the characters and delving into the life at the circus while we saw Jake struggling to deal with what his father had left him to deal with. It really helped you to understand what was at stake throughout the book and allowed you to understand the dilemma of the book more throughly.

As a character, I thought Jake was wonderful. His relationship with Grace and the other circus employees was really deep as you could feel that through their interactions in the book. The other characters, even the magical creatures in the circus, all had such distinct perosnalitites and that was something that just made the story feel so alive.

The plot was well written and well paced, I could feel the threat looming over the circus for the whole book and once which made the whole reading experience even more enjoyable. Plus, it had a great ending that was sweet and has the potential for another book to come should the author wish to continue the series.

The writing was thoroughly enjoyable and kept me engaged for the whole book. It was just so wonderful to become fully engorssed in the world of a magic circus full of illusions and mythical creatures such as dragons and griffins, in a setting that felt like it could just exist in our world if it wasn't for the magic.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour.
Profile Image for T.A..
Author 13 books65 followers
February 18, 2021
I just finished listening to the final version of the audiobook for this, narrated by the wonderfully talented James Highfield, and I am so beyond excited for everyone else to get to experience the story in this format. It sounds fantastic. James' narration really brings the story and characters to life in a way that has exceeded my expectations. I loved this book already, but hearing it read aloud has just made me love it even more. Keep an eye it for it if you're an audiobook listener. It should be available in the next month or so.
Profile Image for Janine.
355 reviews61 followers
October 11, 2019
This standalone set in an alternate 1920’s USA with magic, fantastical creatures and the life of a circus was a nice and intriguing read from T.A. Hernandez. It almost felt like a callback to an earlier time with the dangers and environment that came with a life in the circus, magic and the mob all rolled into one.

As for the world, there’s just enough magic and world building to differentiate this from a straight up historical fantasy (along with no concrete dates being mentioned), but still have a feel of the era that it’s based on, that this is taking place in something that feels like 1920’s USA. Circuses are performing across the country, stopping between small towns via trains, with acts that were in the real life circus, along with the more fantastical acts like griffins, dragons, magical illusionists, among others. There’s also ogres and dwarves wandering about with magical ability. Most of the magic is in the form of potions and charms, which have been banned for the past few years (this world’s version of prohibition), which gave rise to speakeasys that sell them at high prices. The mobs have also taken hold, and one of the most powerful serves as the antagonists. It was delivered naturally throughout as we get a glimpse of the shows and I enjoyed reading about another aspect and feel like we only scratched the surface of this world.

The characters are intriguing with their own goals and desires. Jake Strickland has struggled to keep his late father’s circus afloat, while dealing with deep seeded issues in their fractured relationship. It gets worse when he runs into Vincent Burke, one of the most powerful mobsters in the country, informing him of a massive debt he owed, and has only one month to pay it off. I felt for him as he’s just trying to do a job he never asked for, having to sort through his past issues, and trying to settle things with his girlfriend, Grace, our female lead. She’s resourceful, and sees Jake’s father as a hero in a way, though as the story continues, has to rethink some things, but she doesn’t lose her bite and edge and stands on her own. The other characters were interesting enough and gave me an extra layer of depth, with each serving a role. Also, Calico Thunder, the title’s namesake, is the featured dragon act in Strickland’s circus.

The story moves at a nice pace, though it is on the slower side outside of a couple of action sequences, which isn’t bad, and fits the story well as we got to know the characters and relationships better. Things really gets interesting in the last quarter, when a big plot twist changes everything and blew me away.

Overall, a nice read from Hernandez!
Profile Image for Mary Fan.
Author 50 books361 followers
August 2, 2021
I love fantasy, and I love circuses, and this book absolutely hit the spot for me. Set in a fantasy world reminiscent of 1920s America, CALICO THUNDER RIDES AGAIN follows a young circus owner's efforts to save the show after the mob calls in his father's old debt. Jake Strickland is an easily likable protagonist - earnest and tenacious, a guy who genuinely cares about those who rely on him. I feel like a lot of fantasy has gotten super cynical these days, and in trying to outsmart the reader has lost its sense of wonder. Not so in this case. Wonder is alive and well in this story.

The setting is absolutely enchanting - a circus full of magic and mythical creatures! - and the world is populated with whimsical characters. While the stakes are high - this is the mob we're dealing with, after all! - the story never loses its charm. Really, there's a special kind of joy that comes with reading something unabashedly magical, that revels in its world and genre and takes you to a wondrous new place.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun fantasy read - including younger audiences. While this isn't technically a children's book, I think a lot of kids would really enjoy the enchanted world and magical adventure (content-wise, there's some references to mob violence but nothing graphic).

As someone who's not just a fantasy nerd, but also a circus nerd, I found this book to be exactly what I was looking for.
Profile Image for (Ellie) ReadtoRamble.
403 reviews26 followers
February 15, 2021

I read this book for a blog tour and the BBNYA 2020 panel, so thank you to the team at BBNYA and the blog tour organiser for letting me read this book and take part in this blog tour. All opinions are my own.

This is a circus with a bit of a difference to the ones we know and have been to as children because it has unicorns, wyverns, griffins and even a dragon! But more importantly, maybe, the crew that works at the circus seem to really care for their animals and want the best for them.

I felt like the writing style and the pace were strong and they helped move the story along. The author has a knack with words, and I did really like reading about the bits that were really focused on the circus shows and the crew members because it was interesting to see. This was a book with a unique plot, and I’ve not read anything like this before.

Overall, this was a really interesting, unique and nicely paced book that took the theme of the circus and turned it on its head. I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this book, I did enjoy it, but not as much as I was expecting and I feel like it was just lacking on certain points to make me enjoy it even more.

I gave this book 3.5 stars. I did enjoy this book, I just wish it had given me more of what I was expecting, but that’s just me being picky. If you like books with magic, a unique circus setting, interesting animals and characters, then this is the book for you!

You can find my full review on my blog here: https://readtoramble.com/book-review-...
Profile Image for Beth Tabler.
Author 7 books172 followers
February 20, 2021

Calico Thunder Rides Again by T.A. Hernandez is an adventure book that I did not know I needed. It has Dragons, circuses, and gangsters. While I don't often read books suitable for the under 18 audience, Calico Thunder Rides Again is well written enough to excite and entice readers of all ages. As a participant in the BBYNA tour, I was given an opportunity to check out this story; it appeals to all the things I like. So, I dived in, and I was so glad I did.

As I mentioned, Calico Thunder is a book that is written for a younger audience. But while the writing style has more youthful themes to it, I come from an intense love of grimdark; it still was descriptive and engaging. The description of the circus with its kaleidoscope of colors and cacophony of sounds seemed fantastic. I could practically smell the popcorn.

I was engaged with the characters right from the get-go. It has frenetic pacing at times, which added to the situation that Jake found himself in. I routed for Jake as an underdog the whole time. Even well-timed bits of laughter and jokes helped lighten the mood just enough so that you don't take it all too seriously.

Calico Thunder Rides Again is a fun story, and it is rather obvious why it was a final in the competition. I am glad that I had a chance to read something out of my standard repertoire, and the story did well for me.

Profile Image for A Voracious Reader (a.k.a. Carol).
1,970 reviews1 follower
February 15, 2021

Book source ~ BBNYA

Jake Strickland used to ride dragons in a wild west show until an accident at 23 ended that career. When his dad dies he inherits his magical traveling circus. Literally magical. Though not as magical since the Ban and thus not as profitable. Jake finds out his dad ran it into the ground and it’s so far in the red Jake’s not sure he can raise it up again. But he digs in and after a lot of hard work and money to pay off debts, they are making a profit again. Until a mobster comes along and tells Jake his dad owed him a fuckton of money and he’s calling the debt due in full by the end of the month. Wut?! What follows is what a desperate man does to save the people he cares about.

This is one of those stories that eases you into the story and then carries you away. It’s not a flashy fast high speed chase. More like a slow slide into a nice hot bath on a cold snowy day. First, it’s about a circus. Then the author kicks it up a notch and makes it a magical circus. With illusions and mystical beasts including a dragon! Third there’s the Ban where most magic is against the law so charms and jinxes and things of that sort have to go underground. Next there’s some great characters and a look at how a traveling magical circus operates. Now, all of this is good stuff, but maybe a bit dry. However! Jake, owner of the circus, has just reached a goal he’s been working towards for three hard years and is finally in a good place. Well, that’s just not going to cut it, now is it? Enter the villain. And, oh boy, what a nasty piece of work this dude is. You’ll hate him.

Jake, all around great guy, is now desperate. And desperate people do desperate things. I have to say how much I felt for Jake. Stuck between a rock and, well, a bigger rock, he’s scrambling for most of the book to make the villain go away. It’ll break your heart. Assuming you have one. *squints at you* Anyway, I really thought this book was going to end on a big downer, but I should have had faith. The ending is awesome. Seriously. I have no idea if there will be a next book or not. It doesn’t really need one, but I’d definitely follow the characters into their next adventure. If you like magic, a circus, great characters, and a nasty villain then I highly recommend you pick this book up. I really don’t think you’ll regret it.
Profile Image for M.T. DeSantis.
Author 18 books61 followers
November 9, 2019
I received this book for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Read an excerpt on my blog.
Ever since I read The Night Circus, I’ve been a sucker for anything that has the words “magic” and “circus” in the same sentence. So when the opportunity to read this book came up, I jumped on it like a bunny on carrots.
A circus…with a dragon!
I repeat. A circus…with a dragon!
The only thing I hesitated over before reading this was the 1920s setting. I don’t usually go for historical books, but literally everything else about this was right up my alley. I am beyond glad I didn’t let that little reservation win. I enjoyed this from start to finish. I even nearly forgot it was historical. That’s not to say that the setting wasn’t fleshed out—it was. It’s that I didn’t get bogged down in the details of the time period. I got caught up in a tale of magical performances, potions, mythical creatures, and mirror communication. And to top it all off, all the magic was rooted in one man’s very real financial struggle. I was hooked.
The book was on the shorter side, which leads me to my only real complaint—if it can even be called that. I didn’t feel like some of the secondary characters got enough screen time. I wanted to know more about how some of them came to the circus, why they were so dedicated to the circus. There was a little, but I felt there could have been more. There is an entire universe in here that we only scratch the surface of.
On the flip side, the story is tight and compact. I got a very clear picture of who Jake was and the struggles plaguing him. I won’t spoil the ending, but it didn’t go in the direction I expected. I wound up loving it, and I’m always for shouting about books that surprise me. If this at all appeals to you, give it a try. I hope to see more from this author, circuses with dragons or something else.
Profile Image for Margaret Adelle.
294 reviews48 followers
May 14, 2020
When the author first offered me this book for review, I was immediately intrigued by the general premise of it. The idea of a alternate fantasy-norm Prohibition story was intriguing.

The story explored it's premise in very nuanced ways. Griffins and dragons were treated much like the exotic circus animals were, making it feel much more realistic. Jake's problems, having a large debt to the mob, feel like a noir story, but it fits with the idea. As a character, he's likeable and sympathetic, even with all the lies he's telling. His relationship with Grace was also adorable. It's hard to make a relationship come through when it's begun before the book starts, but the romance is still palpable and I appreciated it.

As for the villains, I genuinely wanted to punch them in the face. Clarence is lucky he's a fictional ogre. But that made the problem feel properly big and dire. The mob being the villains in a Prohibition era story also fits in well with the setting.

The only possible critique I could come up with was that there were a couple moments where the story telegraphed "look how well things are going now!" that pretty much told the reader things would be going badly in short order. But that could also be the result of reading a lot of stories with similar structures.

I also wish there had been just a bit more emphasis on the seedy underside of the Ban before a reveal two thirds of the way through the book, but for anyone with even rudimentary understanding of the American Prohibition, it fits in well. If there's anything I could say, is that I wish there were more scenes in the speakeasy. Oh, and more scenes with Flo. Because there just aren't enough female dwarves in fantasy.

For any fans of alternate history (or dragons as a whole) this is a great pick!
Profile Image for Kim *Brockway Gatehouse*.
397 reviews4 followers
February 6, 2023
I don’t usually choose to read books or stories that are suitable for under 18s. However, being on a judging panel means reading genres outside of your usual choices.

I was given the opportunity to read Calico Thunder Rides Again as part of a blog tour. I like fantasy stories, the front cover is fun, the story’s description piqued my interest and of course, I love finding new-to-me authors. Therefore, I started reading this one with an open mind.

T. A. Hernandez is a new-to-me author.
Hernandez’s writing style instantly impressed me. The descriptive prose she used throughout and how she set up the scenes was intelligently done. The fact that she showed us rather than telling us her characters’ personality traits confirmed her skill. I was also pleased with how realistic her characters felt – even the fantastical animals had personalities!

T. A. Hernandez grabbed my attention from the very first chapter.
The plot had a definite “race-against-time” feel, with many frustrated growls interwoven throughout. I felt for Jake Strickland and journeyed with him on his frantic struggle to protect those under his care. However, there’s so much more to this tale than that. It gave me all the aspects that I look for in an engaging story. There was a gripping adventure, humour, danger, a sprinkling of romance, character growth and a world I wanted to explore.

Calico Thunder Rides Again gave me ALL the feels. I laughed, cried and shook my fists in frustration at the injustice. My heart warmed at the sense of love and loyalty. The world and characters that Hernandez created were brought to life in my imagination: I hope we get the chance to visit again.
Author 15 books6 followers
December 18, 2020
A hero who stands alone, malicious bandits, wild animals. Does that sound like a western? Surprise! It’s a fantasy. With western underpinnings but fused heavily with its fantasy elements, Calico Thunder Rides Again makes for one thrilling read.
Circus owner Jake has found he has fallen for the animal trainer, Grace Hawkins. Life is good until someone arrives and tells him about an old debt of his father’s. Repaying a debt might not appear to be a plot device to hang an adventure on, but it allows the reader to see how much Jake cares for the circus performers.
The world-building, the circus life, and the tension work together to keep the reader enthralled in Calico Thunder Rides Again’s grip. When the climax comes, author T. A. Hernandez weaves some magic of her own with her poignant passages.
The cover art and art design of the novel is amazing! Also created by author T. A. Hernandez, the illustration, colors, and design blend together perfectly. Go ahead and judge this book by its cover.
Calico Thunder Rides Again is a fun and spirited romp of a circus-fantasy-western. Take it for a “ride.” You won’t be disappointed.
Profile Image for Jennifer Hill.
225 reviews5 followers
February 23, 2021
In a world where magic is banned, the circus stands, a magical wonder across all the land.

When Jake Strickland inherits the circus from his father it seems like things are going great.

But what he doesn’t know is that his father was in debt and owed a lot of money to mobsters and soon Jake finds himself and the circus in trouble.

With his girlfriend, Grace by his side, Jake is on a quest to save the circus, his employee’s livelihood and the animal’s lives before he is forced to close.

I found myself rooting for Jake to save the circus. You can really tell how much Jake cares about the creatures and his employees.

I loved the world the author had built here. Full of amazing characters that you will love and magical creatures such as Calico, a dragon, griffins and more. You also get a real feel for the relationships between the characters. It’s an easy, fun read and full of action. I loved delving into her world and found myself wrapping this one up quite quickly.

If you love books that are set within a magical land or loved the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films, you’ll love this.

‘Calico Thunder Rides Again’ is a magical and whimsical read.
601 reviews2 followers
August 24, 2022
This is an interesting story that revolves around Jake Strickland, a circus owner trying to right the wrongs of his less than business minded late father. Jake seems to have got the circus running in the black when another poor choice from his fathers past arrives. A mobster demands $400 000 that Jake can’t pay. TA Hernandez weaves a story of a man trying to do what’s right by the people that work for him while walking a tightrope with gangsters. What takes this story to another level are the fantasy and magical elements. The circus features clowns and other acts you might expect but there are animals too but not just any animals there are dragons and hippogriffs to name just a couple. This might seem like an odd mix of gangster story and fantasy, and you might be right were it not for the skill of this author in weaving all these different parts together beautifully. Rather than seeming fantastic it all feels perfectly normal to the world she has created. I was totally hooked right from the start and pulled into this fascinating world. It’s a fast paced, thrilling and, dare I say it, magical story.
Profile Image for Nancy Foster.
Author 10 books82 followers
May 31, 2021
Great book, loved it a lot. I anticipated I was going to enjoy this magical beast circus and its interesting troupe of performers and the book did not leave me disappointed.

Jake is a former dragon rodeo rider with an injured back running his father's circus as well as he can... if only he knew he inherited a whole heap of problems as well.

Along with top-notch performers and amazing tamed beasts (which includes a real dragon named Calico Thunder who is the real star of the show), Jake discovers his father owed heaps of money due to poor money management skills, and it seems like a dangerous mobster has just showed up right when he was starting to turn a profit to collect an impossible sum of money.

Jake must ponder between selling the circus to this man or try to obtain enough money by downsizing. Will he pay back the debt on time?

Well-written and full of nonstop fun, this is definitely a good read!
Profile Image for Michelle L Winkler.
Author 1 book8 followers
July 5, 2020
There's more to it than a dragon.

If you get this book thinking it's just about a dragon, you'll be disappointed at first. However, soon you'll come to realize, like I did, that this story is about more than just a cool dragon. It’s about family; both the one you’re born into and the one you find. The dragon is there, but she's just one part of the story. There's a whole circus of people and animals to fall in love with.

I also love how magic was woven into the world, so seamlessly it felt real. I felt bad for Jake because of the situation he was in, and rooted for him. This book deserves the best compliment I can give; at the last page I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to continue on with the characters in their world.

This is a book I’d happily read more than once.
Profile Image for Melissa.
Author 130 books13 followers
April 24, 2023
I bought this book because of the cover and because it was cheap. I had credit on Audible and this had been in my wishlist for a while.

This, it turns out, was a good purchase.

I love that magic and all these fantastical animals exist in the world, and it's just the way it is. No one questions any of it.

i had some suspicions about the two characters from the first chapter, so it felt good when their identities and motivations are revealed.

The only thing stopping this from a 5 star is that the ending feels... unfinished. We're left with Jake and Grace on the run from the mob and... that's it. It feels unresolved. If it's this way because there's a planned sequel, that's alright. If the author has no further plans to continue this story, it's disappointing.
Profile Image for Paula Dyches.
815 reviews13 followers
June 5, 2021
Moral is Never Owe Money to the Mafia- Fun Read!

This was such a fun read and the narration was wonderful! I don't want to give anything away so I will keep this short. As for content warnings there is some minor language (less than Harry Potter), no graphic violence, and no sexual content- so PG and 3-4th grade up but would say it's a middle grade read. This is a great mash up of fantasy and adventure with circuses, outlawed magic, mobsters, and so many fun fantasy creatures. Basically, if the description sounded good and intrigued you then you won't be disappointed.

—I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
Profile Image for Christina.
239 reviews
April 28, 2021
This is a wonderful alternate history novel. The characters are incredibly relatable, and it's impossible not to root for Jake, Grace, Bruno and the other members of Strickland's Circus.

However, as the reader we know from the first few pages that I was definitely figuratively biting my fingernails waiting to see how it would turn out.
Profile Image for K.E. Andrews.
Author 11 books97 followers
November 30, 2022
A fantastical ride

A circus. Griffins. Magic. And a dragon. What more could a story need? This was a very entertaining tale and captured the vibes of a Western fantasy perfectly. I enjoyed the different layers of magic and mythical creatures woven into this tale. I really felt for the characters and kept waiting for the vindication that they finally got in the end. The only thing I wanted a bit more of was the backstory of Grace and Jake's relationship. This makes me want to read more of Hernandez's works. 4.5 out of 5
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,442 reviews39 followers
December 13, 2022
I love the cover on this and in general I enjoyed the writing and world that the book was set in.
My biggest gripe is definitely a me thing - I really don't enjoy the blackmail storyline in general though I always hope for more. Characters always do the same things and it's fairly predictable. That's nothing against this particular story but for my enjoyment it didn't pan out.
I'm definitely going to pick this author up again though, like I said. I liked the way the world was hinted at and the writing, the plot just was not my favorite.
11.9k reviews54 followers
October 9, 2021
Magic was once used by all but a ban came in banning some magic and black market magic was set up ruined by powerful men. He has inherited a circus with everything included the debts. He was winning when the mob come asking for their money back. What will he do? Can he meet the deadline? Will everything end badly? See if he saves his circus

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Falstaff's Laughs.
4 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2023
I bought this book a while ago and just didn't get around to reading it until a recent long plane flight. I'm so glad I waited.

It was one of two books I read during that flight and both were excellent and made the time go by so quickly! I enjoy fantasy with a really unique angle that leaves me smiling and this was definitely it. I'll definitely be reading Hernandez's other books in the future.
Profile Image for T.J.P. Campbell.
Author 22 books3 followers
June 18, 2023
Brilliant writing. I love the dragon best. I've written dragons into one of my trilogies. In my case more sci-fi than fantasy. But I think this is a book well worth reading. Perhaps a little short and definitely not too long. But quality is quality. Making magic believable. Making characters believable.

Keep up the good work!

(I got this book free a long time ago but just got around to reading it)
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