July Book Review: Girl in the Shadows

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Girl in the Shadows (Cirque American #2)

By: Gwenda Bond

Release Date: July 5 2016

*Beware: Spoilers ahead!*


Official Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of
Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared.  More than anything, Moira wants to be a
magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.

When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly
falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action.  Instead of giving the highly coveted
invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly
former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque.  If she can perform alongside its world-famous
acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.

But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she
can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic.  To further distract her, Raleigh shows up
none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and
intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her.  As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come
into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion.  If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may
forever remain a girl in the shadows.


My Synopsis:

Moira Mitchell has spent the past eighteen years of her life
standing in the wings as her magician father enjoyed the growing spotlight.  All she ever wanted was to follow in his
footsteps, but her father refused to let her perform magic, leaving her to
practice her skills in secret.

When a prized invitation meant for her father’s former
apprentice, Raleigh, makes its way into her hands, Moria decides it’s her time
to step onto the stage, and she sets off to join the world-famous Cirque
American.  Maybe showing her father that
she can make it among some of the best performers in the world will convince
him that she has what it takes to be a magician.

But things don’t go as planned.  Moria’s magic tricks take on a life of their
own, suddenly seeming like real
magic.  Raleigh’s arrival to the Cirque
threatens to blow her cover, and the resident knife-thrower, Dez, drives Moira
crazy, although neither of them can quite decide if that’s good or bad.  As secrets are revealed and danger mounts,
Moira must uncover the truth of her past and her abilities if she ever wants to
be more than a girl in the shadows…if she manages to live that long.


My Thoughts:

I’ve never been to the circus, but I’ve always wanted to
go.  (Living in the country, we have
plenty of rodeos, but, sadly, no circuses.)
The sweet treats, the bright lights, the daring feats—it all seems so
much larger than life.  Probably because I’ve
never actually been to one, I’ve always loved books and films with circus
settings, and Gwenda Bond’s Cirque American series is the latest set of
circus-based books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Girl in the Shadows
is the second book in the Cirque American series, set during the second season
of the world-famous circus.  White GitS does work as a standalone, it
certainly wouldn’t hurt to read its predecessor, Girl on a Wire, first.  All
the major characters make appearances in this book, and some of the plot points
do cross over, but GitS has its own
story to tell and its own cast to tell it, including main character Moira
Mitchell.

I loved Moira.  (And I’m
not ashamed to say that I pictured her as Zatanna.)

She was so determined to be a magician like
her father, and it was easy to imagine her spending countless hours practicing
her magic skills in secret.  The escapes
and illusions we got to see once she’d joined the Cirque were brilliant, and I
liked that there was a bit of a behind-the-scenes peek at how some major magic
tricks are pulled off, thanks to Moira designing her own versions of these
tricks.  

I also loved that she dedicated all her performances to
female magicians.  There were definitely
some feminist aspects in this book, but they weren’t shoved in your face, and
in fact, I really appreciated them—now that I’m aware of these women magicians,
I’m excited to learn more about them!  I
also felt like there was more of an emphasis on female friendships here than in
Girl on a Wire, where the most
obvious female friendship was prevented by family rivalry.  It was great to see more of Dita, especially
as she grew more into herself and really began to shine in her own right.

Regarding the circus itself, I loved all the descriptions of
everyday circus life, which is strongly at odds with the glitz and glamor of
the shows themselves.  Living in RVs,
long hours on the road between stops, late nights, grueling
multiple-shows-a-day schedules—it’s not as glamorous as it seems from the
outside.  I liked that Bond portrayed
circus life as it really is while still managing to convey the joy circus folk
have for doing the things they love.  She
also did a great job of showing how much hard work goes into a flawless
performance.  I mean, it’s not like I
thought big top performers had it easy, but yeesh!  It makes me have more respect for these guys
and gals.

Moira jumped right into the organized chaos, though, and
although things didn’t start off smoothly, she quickly found her niche.  Her flair for the dramatic reminded me of
Jules, as did her dedication to her craft despite all the ensuing
craziness.  Unlike Jules, though, Moira
didn’t have a strong support system—at least not at first.  As Moira’s magic—real magic—grew, it was clear why her father had tried to keep her
away from his world.  I was glad Moira
put two and two together pretty quickly and didn’t hold her father’s protective
nature against him, and it was nice to see the bond between them grow stronger
once Moira brought her father on board to help with her final illusion.

The bond with Moira’s mother, on the other hand, was
strained almost to the point of nonexistence.
I understand why her mother left and stayed gone, but it was hard to get
a feel for the relationship between the pair…which I guess was sort of the
point, since her mother was trapped by Rex and the Praestigae and had to be
rather ambiguous in regards to her loyalties.
I do think, though, that Moira’s mother made it fairly clear that she
was pretty neutral towards Moira as she left at the end, her own magic
restored.  I don’t believe she had any
ill will towards her daughter, but once she had what she was looking for, it
was time to disappear again.

Honestly, while I liked Moira having actual magic and the
history behind it, the Praestigae didn’t really cut it for me.  When they were truly bad—like smashing
Brandon’s hand—it felt legitimately frightening, and I liked that.  But the rest of the threats felt less, well, threatening to me, and while the cultish
set-up was unsettling, I thought things could’ve been hashed out more or maybe
presented more clearly to make Rex and his followers more of a true Big Bad.

On the plus side, Rex’s search for the magic coin did lead
to Moira meeting Dez.  Dez’s skills were
pretty impressive, and I loved the teasing banter between him and Moira.  It was pretty obvious that he and Brandon
were one of the other parties searching for the coin, but by the way Dez
generally acted and the way he flip-flopped between liking Moira and keeping
her at arm’s length, it was also pretty obvious that he wasn’t searching of his
own free will.  I appreciated that it
wasn’t instalove with Moira and Dez.  Yes,
things moved fast once they actually got together, but they had a bad start and
a rocky beginning before they finally gave in to their feelings for one
another.  I also liked that Dez truly supported
Moira’s tricks and escapes as long as they were safe, even playing the
beautiful assistant, which made me smile.
I was glad for the way things turned out for the two of them, both in
terms of their relationship and their careers.

Overall, Girl in the
Shadows
was truly a magical book (pun fully intended).  The circus setting is exciting but realistic,
and Moira’s escapes will keep you flipping the pages to see how it turns out,
even despite knowing how the trick is done.
The nods to past female magicians is neat, and the relationships—familial,
friendly, and romantic—are all fun to see grow over the course of the
book.  The Big Bad could be a bit
more menacing, but the stakes are certainly high enough to keep pushing Moira
and co. to find a way to save the day.

So if you’re looking for a fun, magically entertaining read
with daring escapes and ancient secrets, Girl
in the Shadows
is the book for you.
Grab some cotton candy (or some cotton candy-flavored ice cream, whatever floats your boat) and
check it out.

And also check out book one of the Cirque American, Girl on a Wire, and the newly released
graphic novel, Girl Over Paris, which
follows Jules and the circus crew to, you guessed it, Paris!


Stray Thoughts and Observations:

  • Dez first juggled knives on a bet!
  • It’s probably not a good idea for Moira to rely on her magic
    for her escapes.  Even if she can control
    it, she’s good enough without having to resort to magic!
  • The bullet catch with the coin involved was intensely
    awesome.
  • I admire Moira for being strong enough to get rid of the
    coin.  Most people would want to be all
    powerful, but she willingly gives it up without seeming to even think about
    what all that extra power could do if she had more control over it.
  • The Ferris wheel disappearance–just wow.
  • Glad that troublesome coin is finally gone.
  • Those artifacts are going to show back up again, Warehouse 13 style.

Favorite Quotes:

  • Magic was a blend of artful tricks and impressive
    feats.  Magic was about illusion,
    perception.  Deception, not reality.  Magic was well-crafted lies woven into
    stories no one believed were true, even though they delighted in seeing the
    convincing falsehood with their own eyes.
    It was not, well, magic.
  • “Fate has its own plans, and it doesn’t consult us.”
  • Being honest about what you truly wanted was the beginning
    of achieving it.
  • I paused only to buy one of the few remaining sticks of
    cotton candy.  Sweet, pink, and
    sticky.  I wasn’t a doctor, but I
    suspected it might have curative properties.
  • Oh, Houdini, if you
    could see me now.  The truly unholdable
    girl.
  • “Brother, I can’t believe you fell this hard for a rich girl
    who’s into bondage.”
  • “But tonight I dedicate this performance to all those women
    who ever stood on a stage or a street and produced coins from nowhere.  To those who pulled cards from their
    sleeves.  To those who were lovely
    assistants and box jumpers.  To those who
    escaped straitjackets and locked trunks.
    And to those who caught bullets.
    To all the women who dared to do magic.”

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