The Midnight Circus

Tachyon. Oct. 2020. 256p. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781616963408.
Gr 9 Up–In 16 well-crafted stories, Yolen reveals the dark underside of her imagination, delving with surgical precision into horror, suspense, and the psychological fabric of nightmare. Culled from her prolific publication history, these tales—most of which draw on European Jewish, Russian, or Scottish folklore—find fresh life in this collection, each accompanied by an original poem and notes providing additional context. This book showcases Yolen’s greatest strength—her marriage of fantasy and history, especially through the lens of folklore. In “The Snatcher,” Yolen entwines her own family’s story with a horrific figure from Jewish history, reimagined as a dark harbinger of conscription. “Requiem Antarctica” reimagines Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expedition through the lens of vampirism, and “Names” weaves together the horrors of anorexia and the Holocaust. The collection spans science fiction, mythology, and fairy tale, and despite its often gory imagery, remains imbued with Yolen’s characteristic dry wit. Characters are rarely described physically.
VERDICT An engrossing collection that will linger in readers’ minds long after reading, and a perfect (re)introduction to Yolen’s rich well of fantasy horror. For fans of Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, and Leigh Bardugo.

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