When a story is set in an invented universe, the line its author must walk is a bit more treacherous than when a tale is set in a recognizable “real” world. In The Ladies of the Secret Circus, Constance Sayers proves she can walk that line with grace and power.
Sayers’ second novel (after 2020’s A Witch in Time) unfolds through two narratives, eight decades apart. In the 1920s, a woman named Cecile is part of a wondrous family circus with a magical secret. A love affair might set her free but could also cost her everything. In the 2000s, Lara, a descendant of that same family, prepares for her wedding day and is shaken to her core when her fiancé goes missing. As she searches for answers, Lara is drawn into a web of secrets and magic that leads her to Cecile’s journals and beyond, as she uncovers a dark curse stretching back generations.
The novel’s massive network of connections—tactile and ethereal, physical and mystical—makes for a luxurious reading experience, like a rich tapestry. The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a book to get lost in, not just because of the fantasy elements that layer it with intrigue but also because of the emotional connections that tie it all together. Through beautifully orchestrated prose and careful, confident pacing, Sayers constructs a story that feels like sitting down with an older relative and slowly, over hours, getting all the family secrets in one juicy, enchanted package.
Perfect for fans of Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches series or Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, The Ladies of the Secret Circus is just as much about the secrets we keep in the name of family as it is about the spells we cast in the name of love.