The Emerald Circus

The Emerald Circus

Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations of your favorite tales. Ringmaster and internationally bestselling author Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) spins modern fantasy classics in tales that go well beyond Wonderland and Oz, down the rabbit hole and back again.Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course...

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Title:The Emerald Circus
Author:Jane Yolen
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Emerald Circus Reviews

  • Brandon Sanderson

    I’ve loved Jane Yolen’s writing since I was a youth. There’s something delicious about the way she takes old tropes, myths, or fairy tales and does a compelling–yet often twisted–take on them. (Her book

    , for example, is the classic “kid raises a dragon egg” story, except here he raises the dragon to compete in brutal cock-fighting-style contests.)

    In an era where “fairy tell retellings” have become hip and popular, Jane continues to show she’s a master of reimagining old stories wi

    I’ve loved Jane Yolen’s writing since I was a youth. There’s something delicious about the way she takes old tropes, myths, or fairy tales and does a compelling–yet often twisted–take on them. (Her book

    , for example, is the classic “kid raises a dragon egg” story, except here he raises the dragon to compete in brutal cock-fighting-style contests.)

    In an era where “fairy tell retellings” have become hip and popular, Jane continues to show she’s a master of reimagining old stories with a new context. This collection (named after a story where Dorothy from

    ended up in a circus instead of a fantasy world) is an excellent sampling of these stories. Often, they are about context. The story of the people who were there at Merlin’s birth, for example, or a fanciful story of how Hans Christian Anderson might have encountered one of the creatures from his tales.

    Lyrical, at times hilarious, and always poignant, this is the best short story collection I’ve read in years. It contains not one, but two nebula-award winning stories, and is being released on the year when Jane herself has been named a SFWA Grand Master. (The highest honor the science fiction community can bestow.)

    I can’t recommend this collection enough. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. It contains some of the best stories by one of the best writers of our time.

    Jane has an excellent sense for where to start and end a short story, as well as a way of looking beyond the average “retelling” of a folk tale. While I have nothing against many modern fairy tale retellings (and have enjoyed a number of them) it’s much harder (and, I feel, rewarding) to take a few extra steps when telling one of these stories.

    For example, a lot of modern day fairy tale retellings will do the story straight, but transpose the setting. (Robin Hood in space, or Beauty and the Beast as a Greek tragedy.) As you read this collection, pay close attention to the character Jane decides as the viewpoint character–it’s often not the one you would expect from a “quick and dirty” retelling. Yet, it creates an innate tension which Jane exploits, as in many cases, we know these stories–so the tale itself is not surprising. It’s the eyes we see it through, and how these perhaps side characters influence the tale, or are influenced by it themselves.

    What she leaves out is in many ways the most interesting part of this collection. I suggest trying to understand why she began, or ended, each story where she did–and why she often avoided the most obvious pieces.

    This excellent collection reimagines folktales, fairy tales, and sometimes historical people in new and surprising light. It is a brilliant example of short-form storytelling by one of the treasures of the science fiction community.

    There are a few scenes that step up to the PG-13 line and look across, but none that get explicit.

    I was given a copy of this book free for review by a publisher who has also done some of my stories. (They know I’m a big fan of Jane’s work.) I’ve occasionally stood in line to get books signed by Jane Yolen, so I didn’t exactly start reading this book with no bias.

  • Vivian

    I wasn't sure what to expect, but I like fairytales and the cover screamed, "Take me. You love me."Many of them are tangential storylines based on children lit masterpieces or the authors: Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland (a few inspirations), Wizard of Oz. Fun, clever, and the tone employed for each is reflective of the original work, but with a critical twist in perspective or takeaway.

    Then the stories move to series of Arthurian legends, a fae as well as some folklore inspired stories, and famo

    I wasn't sure what to expect, but I like fairytales and the cover screamed, "Take me. You love me."Many of them are tangential storylines based on children lit masterpieces or the authors: Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland (a few inspirations), Wizard of Oz. Fun, clever, and the tone employed for each is reflective of the original work, but with a critical twist in perspective or takeaway.

    Then the stories move to series of Arthurian legends, a fae as well as some folklore inspired stories, and famous personalities like Queen Victoria and Disraeli and Edgar Allan Poe. These are darker in tone. Some are definitely stronger than others, and some are longer than others, but overall I think it is a diverting collection of short stories. Perfect for reading right before bed as you settle in for the night. Never fear, there are end notes about the inspirations for each of the stories to appease reader curiosity.

    This is a nice collection, somewhere between 3.5-4 stars in rating terms. I recommend it to readers who enjoy original takes inspired by classics.

    ~Copy provided by NetGalley~

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    is a new short story collection by Jane Yolen, who's very talented and literate. Final review, first posted on

    :

    Under the big top of

    (2017) is a fantastical assemblage of sixteen short stories and novelettes by Jane Yolen. Historical figures like Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Disraeli, Hans Christian Andersen and Edgar Allen Poe enter the three rings and shed their normal identities, dancing across the high wires and peering into tigers’ mouth

    is a new short story collection by Jane Yolen, who's very talented and literate. Final review, first posted on

    :

    Under the big top of

    (2017) is a fantastical assemblage of sixteen short stories and novelettes by Jane Yolen. Historical figures like Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Disraeli, Hans Christian Andersen and Edgar Allen Poe enter the three rings and shed their normal identities, dancing across the high wires and peering into tigers’ mouths. In this circus’ House of Mirrors we also see unexpectedly twisted reflections of fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland (who makes an appearance here in two very different Yolen tales), Merlin, and Dorothy Gale. A few fairy tale characters ― the Snow Queen, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood and the wolf ― round out the performers in this entrancing circus.

    My favorite stories in this collection:

    “Andersen’s Witch” ― Hans, a young boy from a destitute, conflict-ridden family, is visited by the Ice Maiden one night, who grants him his three wishes. He wishes for a bed long enough for his legs to fit, for his Papa to get well enough to earn money for the family, and to become a rich poet, a digter. Like wishes granted by faeries, though, those granted by the Ice Maiden may twist in the way they are granted.

    Can the grown man Hans, the famous digter, outwit the Ice Maiden who has become the cold Snow Queen?

    “Lost Girls” ― Darla, angry because it isn’t fair that Wendy does all the housework in Neverland and Peter Pan and the boys get to fight pirates, goes to bed and finds herself in Neverland. It’s even worse than she imagined: there’s a whole slew of girls (all of them dismissively called “Wendy” by Peter Pan and the Lost Boys) doing all of the cleaning for a group of extremely messy boys. Darla decides to lead a strike (“Being the daughter of a labor lawyer had its advantages”) in this delightful take on Peter Pan.

    “Blown Away” ― Dorothy Gale does indeed get blown away by a cyclone in this story, narrated by Tom, one of the farm hands. When Dorothy returns seven years later, claiming that she’d experienced a memory loss and had been adopted by the Emerald Circus, Tom wonders about the truth of her story. It’s intriguing to trace the connections between this story and the original Wizard of Oz story by L. Frank Baum (the fate of Toto is eyebrow-raising), but more interesting is the insights into the various characters, like the long-hidden feelings of Tom’s wife Amelia.

    “Evian Steel” ― This story is a type of prequel to the King Arthur legend, set on Ynis Evelonia, an island of women who make the finest swords known in the kingdom. Elaine is sent to the island as a young girl, to live there for the rest of her life. It’s a difficult transition, but gradually she settles in and begins to get to know the other girls and to learn the art of sword making. When the time comes for Elaine’s older friend Veree to go through an initiation process, Elaine wishes to stand by her in her trial.

    In some of the other stories, Alice makes a return trip to Wonderland and has to face her greatest fear in the Jabberwock (“Tough Alice”), Beauty and the Beast channel O. Henry’s “

    ” with an outcome that I definitely did not expect (“The Gift of the Magicians”), Robin Hood’s dying mother has a terrifying request to make of his nurse when her son is born (“Our Lady of the Greenwood”), and Emily Dickinson meets … an unexpectedly inspiring space alien (“Sister Emily’s Lightship”). It’s a varied and imaginative collection.

    A few of these stories, like “The Bird,” in which Edgar and his young, ailing wife discuss their bothersome pet raven, are vignettes, glimpses of events in a character’s life, rich with imagery but perhaps too brief or one-note to make a lasting impression. On the other hand, “Wonder Land,” though even shorter, packs a sensual, feminist punch in three pages.

    Except for “The Bird,” these are previously published stories; for example, four of them appeared in an earlier Yolen short fiction collection,

    . Here, though, each story is accompanied by Yolen’s insightful story notes at the end of this collection, and by a blank verse poem (most of which are new) that relates topically or thematically to that story. For example, “Tough Alice,” in which Alice desperately battles the Jabberwock, is accompanied by this thought-provoking poem:

    is a circus worth visiting and revisiting from time to time.

  • Amalia Gavea

    After The Night Circus and its success, books that contain this word have multiplied by the dozen. Naturally, this one attracted my attention immediately as short stories appeal to me immensely and I was very curious to see how the retellings of old folklore tales and popular children's stories would be handled by a

    After The Night Circus and its success, books that contain this word have multiplied by the dozen. Naturally, this one attracted my attention immediately as short stories appeal to me immensely and I was very curious to see how the retellings of old folklore tales and popular children's stories would be handled by a writer whose pedigree is quite extensive. I had no knowledge of her work prior to this, but the way she talks about it in her Notes speaks for itself....Putting this observation aside, I can say that the overall experience was quite interesting but not completely satisfying.

    : A beautiful, bittersweet tale about the greatest storyteller, his Ice Maiden and the stories that would be cherished by millions of children and adults throughout the centuries. This story is the jewel of the collection.

    : A modern addition to Barrie's Peter Pan with a pseudo-feminist touch. I didn't like this one. I found it as silly and blunt as its original source.

    :Alice finds the strength to laugh in the face of danger.This story has a beautiful message for young girls.

    : A weird version of "The Wizard of Oz" about the years Dorothy was missing from Kansas. I can't say I liked it. I didn't see the point in certain changes and I couldn't take the narrator seriously.

    :An eerie Scottish tale of scholars, fishermen and witches. Inspired by the Witch Trials during the reign of James V and a highlight in the collection.

    : A beautiful, sad, haunting imaginings of the grave in Glastonbury, once thought to belong to Arthur and Guinevere. You're definitely in for a surprise with this one.

    : A very short but very special story about two lovers and a raven. Yes, THAT raven....

    : A contemporary story of a mysterious girl in the night of the Summer Solstice.

    : The wonderful banter between Victoria and Disraeli as they try to forge the British Empire. It goes without saying that the iconic PM is the Jewel of the story.

    : A silly story imagining the marital life of Beauty and the Beast. Thank God this was very short because it was awful.

    : An elderly Alice longs to return to the magic world.

    : A story about the birth and christening of a boy who would become a legend for all time to come. And his name was Robin...

    : A story for Brother Blaise and Geoffrey of Monmouth. But it has nothing to do with the history of Britain. I found it a mediocre -at best- attempt to insert some supernatural, devilish horror in the collection. Disappointing..

    : This didn't make any sense. And not in a good way.....

    : This was an attempt to give voice to a key character in the Arthurian Cycle. An imagining of the childhood of Elaine, Lancelot's doomed wife, and her strange initiation in Avalon. The writer dropped the ball with this one, in epic proportions. I fear she tried to follow the tropes of Fantasy, throwing the Old Ways symbolism, the Goddess belief, Morgan, Merlin, Bedevere and what not in the mix, and the result was disastrous, in my opinion.

    : The final story, a tribute to Emily Dickinson and her spirit. This was extremely successful, written in beautiful, poetic, tragic language and invoking the feelings of the doomed artist to perfection.

    I will not comment on the Story Notes and Poems. The only thing I'd feel dishonest with myself not to mention is that an acknowledged writer doesn't need pompous remarks about her achievements or her religious background...

    I admit I am divided over how to rate this collection properly. In my opinion, there was much that was pretentious and pseudo-feminist, but many of the stories were some of the best I've read. I think that Yolen treated every story with respect on the original source but her attempts to bring certain themes into focus weren't very successful. Making something "modern"in order to be more relevant to a contemporary audience doesn't equal positive results. So, I rate this with 4 stars, because out of the 16 stories of the collection, 10 were really well-written. And yet, the rest were frightfully bad...I don't believe that the writer is the "Hans Christian Andersen of the United States" but I recommend this. Still, I'd advise you proceed with caution and perhaps you will enjoy it more than my nitpicking, exhaustively scrutinizing self. And perhaps the time is ripe for half-stars to finally arrive.

    My reviews can also be found on

  • Carrie

    The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen is a collection of short stories with an introduction to the works done by author Holly Black. I do believe some of these by Yolen at least have been published before but I was not familiar with her work so the entire collection was new to me. I'm not a huge fan of short stories myself but when seeing this I realized that some of the collection included stories on some of my favorite stories such as Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland so of course

    The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen is a collection of short stories with an introduction to the works done by author Holly Black. I do believe some of these by Yolen at least have been published before but I was not familiar with her work so the entire collection was new to me. I'm not a huge fan of short stories myself but when seeing this I realized that some of the collection included stories on some of my favorite stories such as Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland so of course I had to check this one out.

    Of course when all was said and done my favorites are the ones I was looking forward to reading although there were a few others within the book that I also quite enjoyed too. There were however a few stories that I wondered why they were even included as there didn't seem to be much to them but perhaps someone that loves short stories overall would enjoy them more than myself who is always thinking were is the rest of this when it comes to short stories or books. I think though that regardless of being a huge fan of this type of read if you are interested in retellings and new twists on old classics then you'll at least enjoy those stories.

    I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

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