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Catharine Tarbun, Independent Usborne Organiser


Book Review - Skycircus

29th April 2019

It's Lily's fourteenth birthday, and everyone is more interested in the party her father is throwing to celebrate some lifetime achievement award for the Mechanists' Guild, than in celebrating with her. So when Lily receives a mystery package in the post containing four tickets for the circus that evening, she decides that her father's party can wait - she has something much more fun to do!

Dragging Robert, Malkin and new friend Tolly along with her, the four arrive at the Skycircus, ready for an evening of entertainment that they will never forget. But something isn't quite right about the circus, and as the evening goes on, some of the performers are shown to be more than human, like Lily, they are hybrids too. Far from seeming happy about their talents, the hybrids look miserable, and the abuse that is hurled at them from a judgemental audience only serves to cement their obvious discomfort.

Lily can't stand the way the audience are behaving, and the evening is certainly not turning out how she thought it would. The atmosphere at the circus grows darker, and Lily, Robert and Tolly are ready to leave when they notice Malkin is missing. Unable to go without him, they find themselves in a dangerous situation, being chased down by circus owner Slimwood, and his heavy set circus sidekicks.

Finding Malkin at last in the Skycircus airship, Lily and Robert are ready to escape, when the door to the Skycircus is bolted shut, trapping them in a situation more dangerous than they could ever have imagined.

When the airship lands in Paris, Lily and Robert quickly lose hope that Tolly will be able to bring help to them, and Lily is greeted by Madame Verdigris, her father's old housekeeper who has been desperate for revenge since she was fired over a year ago. Robert is torn from Lily, and she finds herself imprisoned with the other hybrids who have some terrifying revelations for her.

With hope fading, a deadly revenge plan in store for her, and no way of getting help from Robert, will Lily be able to escape the horrors of the Skycircus, or will Madame Verdigris finally get the hideous revenge she has been craving for so long? 

Skycircus is the stunning third instalment of the Cogheart series, and somehow manages to be even more magical than its predecessors. Whilst the fast-paced action and well plotted adventure that we have come to expect from this series are still prominent features of this novel, Peter Bunzl stretches his readers with the moral issue of hybrids and difference, and leads us on a beautiful journey of self-discovery with Lily, where we are shown that divided by our differences we are weak, but united by our individuality we are stronger than ever. He teaches us that difference is great, and that the world is made better by the huge variety of people that are in it.

Robert's words to Lily at the end of the novel are something that we should all live by and treasure: 'Your scars, Lily, are the map of your past and the key to the future. A future where you can fly high. And you were born to do that, I know it! To be spectacular and unique. To be who you're meant to be.' Skycircus teaches us to embrace who we are, and to share with the world just how beautiful our individuality is.

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