Never judge a book by its cover, they say.
Well, if you watched us on Facebook Live last Friday, when Angela, Liz and I were talking books, you’ll know that’s exactly what I did.
The book that caught my eye was Show Stealer by Hayley Barker. The cover is shiny silver and purple. The blurb on the back reads: A circus on fire. Fugitives on the run. The deadliest show on earth is ready for an encore.
I thought it was a murder mystery set against the backdrop of circus life written in a jolly style.
Well, I judged it completely wrong! For starters, it’s a young adult book. I began to suspect as much as I got into it and the two protagonists were plainly young, possibly teenaged. It’s also a dystopian fantasy. It’s set in a London of the future. A London divided into the Pures and the Dregs – basically the Haves and the Have Nots. But the Haves don’t want the Have Nots tainting their ideal world and have banished them to their own desperate slums. Sounds a bit like now, doesn’t it?
There is a circus, but it’s a long way from the jolly big top I’d imagined. Called the Cirque, it’s a gladiator-style arena where murder and torture take place for entertainment. The victims, of course, are Dregs – seen as disposable, valueless, sub-human. It’s horrifically reminiscent of the Holocaust, and any form of racism and segregation.
In many ways, it’s a very adult book. But a valuable, educational book for young people to read, too. I must ask one of our office mums how their youngsters would view it.
This is the second in this series. The first was Show Stopper, and I think it would have been useful to have read that first. Coming in at book 2, I found it took longer than I wanted to orientate myself in what was going on, what the story had been so far.
Hero and heroine are Ben and Hoshiko, a young couple. The story is told from their alternating viewpoints as they become separated through his heroism, and find themselves on opposite sides of the Dregs/Pures divide. It’s worth reading, just not the read I was expecting.