The Circus of the Damned (Deal with a Devil) by Cornelia Grey ~ Book Review by Optimist ♰King’s Wench♰

First, let’s talk about this cover. By a show of hands, who else thinks that dude on the cover looks like Gandy?

Bad Gandy?

Naughty Gandy?


The cover alone was enough to make me pick this up.

TheCircusoftheDamned_500x750 Title: The Circus of the Damned (Deal with a Devil)

Author: Cornelia Grey

Publisher: Riptide

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars


Magician Gilbert Blake has spent his entire life conning drunkards in the seediest pubs in the darkest towns, careful to hide the true depths of his power. But when he spends a little too much time in Shadowsea and the infamous slumlord Count Reuben gets wind of his abilities, hiding within the Circus of the Damned may be Gilbert’s only chance at survival.

But there’s more to the Circus than meets the eye. Every time a performer dies, a new one must take his place, or the entire circus suffers the consequences. And while the handsome ringmaster Jesse isn’t one to coerce unwilling performers into giving up their souls to the devil, a recent death in their ranks makes Gilbert exactly what they need.

Yet the longer Gilbert stays with the Circus, the more danger he seems to bring them. Being with Jesse is more than Gilbert could have hoped for, but as Count Reuben’s men continue to search for Gilbert and the Circus loses another performer, they all face running out of time long before the Devil claims his due.

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Optimist ♰King’s Wench♰’s View:

Honestly, I’ve surprised myself with my recent run on circus reads. Who knew I’d take to this setting? I don’t do clowns. I don’t understand why people like them. Clowns are freaky. I skimmed the few clown segments in this one. Thankfully, he is not the main character.

My first experience with this author was Benjamin Pepperwhistle which knocked my socks clean off. Circus of the Damned is quieter than Benjamin. It’s also what I would characterize as a slow burn. Ordinarily, slow burns are not my thing. I like my pages set on FIRE! But, if you give me an entertaining story I’m usually appeased which is what happened here.

I can’t say enough good things about the way Ms. Grey builds a story, the imagery she evokes and the way she uses language. I find her writing to be extremely creative and her stories flow easily. The Circus of the Damned was no exception. True, it didn’t grab me the way Benjamin did, but it’s still a solid read.

When we first meet Gilbert he’s in a sticky situation and it quickly becomes clear that this is par for his course. He’s been fending for himself for a very long time and his backstory is tragic. That backstory coupled with his abilities has made him a lone wolf until he stumbles headfirst into a band of… odd individuals who offer him a deal he can’t or won’t refuse with an angry mob on his tail out for his blood.

Aside:  I swear I could not get Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band out of my head. Over and over!

He agrees to join the circus of the damned in the heat of the moment and soon regrets it. This circus is comprised of a ragtag family of “freaks”, as they refer to themselves, including a tentacle man, a dwarf, a dancing bear, a freakishly strong woman, a clown (shudders), a mechanical elephant, conjoined twins, a fortune teller and the ringmaster, Jesse. WHO’S A GINGER!


A ginger with tattoos! Even better. Jesse is mysterious and beautiful and Gilbert is attracted to him instantly. He and Gilbert dance around each other for quite some time while Gilbert keeps trying to escape the circus only to find himself back there again and again. I found Gilbert’s actions and reactions to be authentic and at times humorous. Once he stops running he and Jesse make a nice couple and did have one especially sexy scene involving magic.

The story is predicated on this conflict between Farfarello (the devil), Count Reuben (a crime boss of sorts in Shadowsea), Jesse and Gilbert. Without going into spoiler-land, I found the motivation behind Count Reuben’s obsession lackluster. I was looking for something more convoluted or elaborate. What I got was ‘he’s the bad guy! (insert evil cackle and/or stroking a cat weirdly)’. I also found the backstory of the deal struck between Farfarello and Jesse anticlimactic. The world building is difficult for me to pin down. At times it reads historical (turn of the century) and others it reads AU, but I’ve not read all the books in this series so perhaps it was addressed in an earlier work.

On a positive note, the buildup to the showdown and the actual showdown were both exciting and the conclusion was gratifying. I would recommend The Circus of the Damned mainly for the writing and imagery. Ms. Grey can tell a tale and I’ll certainly read other offerings from her. Maybe even more circus stories.

Buy Links

Amazon US
Barnes & Noble

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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