Updated: Jun 18
(5/5⭐️) “To speak the truth we carry deep inside us, within our hearts, no matter how difficult, is the only way we can be free.” Skycircus is about standing up for what’s right, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it might be.
Lily Hartman isn’t normal like other girls. She has a cogheart, a clockwork heart that was used to save her life. This makes her a freak by some people’s beliefs, but she knows that hybrids and humans are all the same, even if others are afraid to accept that. In this installment of the Cogheart series, Lily finally gets the chance to prove that. Nearly a year after her last adventure, she receives a mysterious package on her birthday with her mother’s journal and a ticket for her to attend the Skycircus. She and her friends Robert, Tolly, and Malkin sneak away from Brackenbridge Manor and quickly get tangled up in a frightening plot for revenge. The Skycircus isn’t a normal circus—its a frightening one—filled with acts from both humans and hybrids. Suddenly, Lily is the latest hybrid freak attraction. Held prisoner, she and Robert quickly learn that the people in the circus are horribly mistreated, pitted against each other to fear and distrust one another. “But maybe, just maybe, the circus ring would provide an opportunity for her to speak out, to prove to everyone that humans and hybrids were really no different from each other…” In the Skycircus, the ring masters hold all the cards, and if Lily cannot get everyone to understand that they are all fundamentally the same, if she cannot bring everyone together when it matters the most, they will remain prisoners forever.
This story made my heart so full and left me warm all over. It was my favorite book in the series thus far because it addressed deeper, more mature ideas. The underlying theme throughout was that of equality, an idea each of the previous stories hinted at, but never really dived into. Even though there were differences between each of the characters, like Angelique with her mechanical wings, Dede with her mechanical legs, Luca with his mechanical pincer hands, and Lily with her cogheart, they weren’t the freaks that others believed them to be. By the end, they proved it.
Throughout the story, a dark cloud of mistreatment hangs over the circus performers. Lily and Robert and Malkin worked hard to change that:
“You think you don’t have it so bad because you’re not the ones in here behind bars, like us. But ask yourself this: are you really outside the cage? Or are you trapped too?”
Lily and Robert (with the help of the adorable Malkin) were able to teach the performers in the Skycircus a valuable lesson: taking risks to do what is right matters more than anything else. Moreover, through their forgiveness, they were able to illustrate the power of using failure to learn from one’s mistakes.
“Once you’ve fallen, you pick yourself up and try again. Then you can finally be free.”
Bunzl’s writing is picturesque and succinct. The way he described the Skycircus, along with Lily and Robert’s adventure, sucked me into the pages as if I was truly there in the ring with them, cheering them on through each moment. I’ve really grown to love these characters, especially watching their growth from book to book. It’s an excellent story for people of all ages, but especially for the middle grade audience aimed at. I highly recommend reading the whole series!
A huge thank you to @netgally and @jollyfishpress for allowing me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.