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Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond eARC (2 stars)

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I read Gwenda Bond's Blackwood, a Roanoke mystery, earlier this year and loved it. I was impressed by her writing and excited to read more. And Girl on a Wire takes place in a circus! When I saw it on NetGalley, I clicked "Download" immediately. In tone, atmosphere, treatment of magic and ending, it reminded me a lot of Sarah Beth Durst's Chasing Power. Unfortunately, that's not a good thing.


This eARC was provided through NetGalley for review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond
Series: N/A
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Fantasy
Published on October 1, 2014
Published by Skyscape
Final Rating: 2 stars
Synopsis:
A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American!

Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

Review:
What I Liked:
  • The circus- I realized I haven't read many books set in a circus, but it's a great setting. Strange, unfamiliar and almost magical to most of us, but still a real place.

What I Didn't Like:
  • I think the first-person point-of-view was a mistake. We're limited to Jules' observations, and this takes away some of the mystery and magic of the circus because it's described by someone who is used to it, who finds it commonplace. We know Emil is supposed to be magical, but never get a clear view of what exactly he does (beyond "walk" the wire). We know there are acrobats and knife throwers and clowns and dogs and we never see any of it in action.
  • Jules is not overly bright. She's high strung, proud and she's fairly self-centered. Jules' perspective also renders some characters in limited dimensions. Remy, the love interest, seemed a little two-dimensional. I felt like there was more to him, but I had to snatch glimpses around Jules' prattle about how handsome he was.
  • The romance feels forced, rushed, very teenage, and a bit shallow.
  • I'm glad the narrative doesn't give a play-by-play of every single wire walk, but the story seems to skip faster paced, more exciting performances in favor of lots of slow emotional moments.
  • The mystery element felt like a missed opportunity. (Mild spoiler) There could be a major, drawn out question of whether the magic is real. (Three seconds' thought gave me tons of logical explanations for the "magic" events.) Instead, Jules abandons her skepticism and embraces the magic pretty quickly and easily. As we're stuck in Jules' head, this blocks out the other possibilities and kills the mystery vibe, especially since she dedicates little time to tracking down the culprit.
  • Along with the mystery, the danger never grabbed me. A certain event tries to up the stakes, but it didn't work for me. I was never afraid Jules would really get hurt...or Remy for that matter. I didn't care much about anyone, so I wasn't worried and the danger/tension had limited effect.
  • The ending is a letdown. The climax isn't horrible, but the reveal of the "bad guy" and subsequent consequences (or lack thereof) really disappoints. I had major issues with this ending because, after all the good of the climax, it essentially tosses the idea of taking responsibility for one's actions out the window and tries to blame nurture and/or magic. Seriously? (Mild spoiler) Bad guy knowingly attempts to put people in danger. Bad things happen, and he does the same thing again. And then happy ending, all water under the bridge? Too much, too fast, too easy, too NO.
  • This is a little picky, but the author tossed in a line about Dita in the last chapter that did not fit and rubbed me the wrong way. Based on certain events barely months before and the discovery of why/how these events happened barely days before (no spoilers), Dita should have been a bit of a traumatized wreck. It felt like the character (and a realistic mental and emotional reaction) was sacrificed for the sake of a happy ending with no dark spots and/or politically correct quotas. Suffice it to say, it didn't reflect well on the character or the author.

Final Thoughts:
Despite the long list of negatives, it's not a bad book. It focuses on the romance and Jules' shifting priorities and feelings more than I'd like, but it has some good messages about family and hard work interspersed throughout. I expected more "circus" in the story and was disappointed by the limited interaction with the rest of the Big Top, but readers who connect with Jules probably won't mind. I think the first-person narrative was one of the largest contributing factors to my issues with the story, so I really hope The Woken Gods, the other Gwenda Bond novel on my shelf, is in third.

6 comments :

  1. I knew I wasn't in a hurry to read this one for good reasons....

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    1. Good call. I was excited to read more Gwenda Bond, but Blackwood this was not. :(

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  2. Honestly, the synopsis sort of had me yawning ;)

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    1. Honestly, I probably would have skipped it if I didn't love Bond's Blackwood so much. My high expectations were officially skewered. :)

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  3. Great review. This one had interested me before. But now? Not so much. I'll stick to my plans to read The Night Circus.

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    1. Thank you! I've seen a couple of good reviews for The Night Circus, so I would definitely try that one first if you're in a circus mood.

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