The Emerald Circus

The Emerald Circus

Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations of your favorite tales. Ringmaster and internationally bestselling author Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) spins modern fantasy classics in tales that go well beyond Wonderland and Oz, down the rabbit hole and back again.Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course...

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Title:The Emerald Circus
Author:Jane Yolen
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Edition Language:English

The Emerald Circus Reviews

  • Brandon Sanderson

    (Note: For an explanation of my Goodreads policy, please see

    .)

    I’ve loved Jane Yolen’s writing since I was a youth. There’s something delicious about the way she takes old tropes, myths, or fairy tales and does a compelling–yet often twisted–take on them. (Her book

    , for example, is the classic “kid raises a dragon egg” story, except here he raises the dragon to compete in brutal cock-fighting-style contests.)

    In an era where “fairy tell retellings” have become

    (Note: For an explanation of my Goodreads policy, please see

    .)

    I’ve loved Jane Yolen’s writing since I was a youth. There’s something delicious about the way she takes old tropes, myths, or fairy tales and does a compelling–yet often twisted–take on them. (Her book

    , for example, is the classic “kid raises a dragon egg” story, except here he raises the dragon to compete in brutal cock-fighting-style contests.)

    In an era where “fairy tell retellings” have become hip and popular, Jane continues to show she’s a master of reimagining old stories with a new context. This collection (named after a story where Dorothy from

    ended up in a circus instead of a fantasy world) is an excellent sampling of these stories. Often, they are about context. The story of the people who were there at Merlin’s birth, for example, or a fanciful story of how Hans Christian Anderson might have encountered one of the creatures from his tales.

    Lyrical, at times hilarious, and always poignant, this is the best short story collection I’ve read in years. It contains not one, but two nebula-award winning stories, and is being released on the year when Jane herself has been named a SFWA Grand Master. (The highest honor the science fiction community can bestow.)

    I can’t recommend this collection enough. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. It contains some of the best stories by one of the best writers of our time.

    Jane has an excellent sense for where to start and end a short story, as well as a way of looking beyond the average “retelling” of a folk tale. While I have nothing against many modern fairy tale retellings (and have enjoyed a number of them) it’s much harder (and, I feel, rewarding) to take a few extra steps when telling one of these stories.

    For example, a lot of modern day fairy tale retellings will do the story straight, but transpose the setting. (Robin Hood in space, or Beauty and the Beast as a Greek tragedy.) As you read this collection, pay close attention to the character Jane decides as the viewpoint character–it’s often not the one you would expect from a “quick and dirty” retelling. Yet, it creates an innate tension which Jane exploits, as in many cases, we know these stories–so the tale itself is not surprising. It’s the eyes we see it through, and how these perhaps side characters influence the tale, or are influenced by it themselves.

    What she leaves out is in many ways the most interesting part of this collection. I suggest trying to understand why she began, or ended, each story where she did–and why she often avoided the most obvious pieces.

    This excellent collection reimagines folktales, fairy tales, and sometimes historical people in new and surprising light. It is a brilliant example of short-form storytelling by one of the treasures of the science fiction community.

    There are a few scenes that step up to the PG-13 line and look across, but none that get explicit.

    I was given a copy of this book free for review by a publisher who has also done some of my stories. (They know I’m a big fan of Jane’s work.) I’ve occasionally stood in line to get books signed by Jane Yolen, so I didn’t exactly start reading this book with no bias.

  • Vivian

    I wasn't sure what to expect, but I like fairytales and the cover screamed, "Take me. You love me."Many of them are tangential storylines based on children lit masterpieces or the authors: Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland (a few inspirations), Wizard of Oz. Fun, clever, and the tone employed for each is reflective of the original work, but with a critical twist in perspective or takeaway.

    Then the stories move to series of Arthurian legends, a fae as well as some folklore inspired stories, and famo

    I wasn't sure what to expect, but I like fairytales and the cover screamed, "Take me. You love me."Many of them are tangential storylines based on children lit masterpieces or the authors: Peter Pan, Alice In Wonderland (a few inspirations), Wizard of Oz. Fun, clever, and the tone employed for each is reflective of the original work, but with a critical twist in perspective or takeaway.

    Then the stories move to series of Arthurian legends, a fae as well as some folklore inspired stories, and famous personalities like Queen Victoria and Disraeli and Edgar Allan Poe. These are darker in tone. Some are definitely stronger than others, and some are longer than others, but overall I think it is a diverting collection of short stories. Perfect for reading right before bed as you settle in for the night. Never fear, there are end notes about the inspirations for each of the stories to appease reader curiosity.

    This is a nice collection, somewhere between 3.5-4 stars in rating terms. I recommend it to readers who enjoy original takes inspired by classics.

    ~Copy provided by NetGalley~

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    is a new short story collection by Jane Yolen, who's very talented and literate. Final review, first posted on

    :

    Under the big top of

    (2017) is a fantastical assemblage of sixteen short stories and novelettes by Jane Yolen. Historical figures like Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Disraeli, Hans Christian Andersen and Edgar Allen Poe enter the three rings and shed their normal identities, dancing across the high wires and peering into tigers’ mouth

    is a new short story collection by Jane Yolen, who's very talented and literate. Final review, first posted on

    :

    Under the big top of

    (2017) is a fantastical assemblage of sixteen short stories and novelettes by Jane Yolen. Historical figures like Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Disraeli, Hans Christian Andersen and Edgar Allen Poe enter the three rings and shed their normal identities, dancing across the high wires and peering into tigers’ mouths. In this circus’ House of Mirrors we also see unexpectedly twisted reflections of fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland (who makes an appearance here in two very different Yolen tales), Merlin, and Dorothy Gale. A few fairy tale characters ― the Snow Queen, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood and the wolf ― round out the performers in this entrancing circus.

    My favorite stories in this collection:

    “Andersen’s Witch” ― Hans, a young boy from a destitute, conflict-ridden family, is visited by the Ice Maiden one night, who grants him his three wishes. He wishes for a bed long enough for his legs to fit, for his Papa to get well enough to earn money for the family, and to become a rich poet, a digter. Like wishes granted by faeries, though, those granted by the Ice Maiden may twist in the way they are granted.

    Can the grown man Hans, the famous digter, outwit the Ice Maiden who has become the cold Snow Queen?

    “Lost Girls” ― Darla, angry because it isn’t fair that Wendy does all the housework in Neverland and Peter Pan and the boys get to fight pirates, goes to bed and finds herself in Neverland. It’s even worse than she imagined: there’s a whole slew of girls (all of them dismissively called “Wendy” by Peter Pan and the Lost Boys) doing all of the cleaning for a group of extremely messy boys. Darla decides to lead a strike (“Being the daughter of a labor lawyer had its advantages”) in this delightful take on Peter Pan.

    “Blown Away” ― Dorothy Gale does indeed get blown away by a cyclone in this story, narrated by Tom, one of the farm hands. When Dorothy returns seven years later, claiming that she’d experienced a memory loss and had been adopted by the Emerald Circus, Tom wonders about the truth of her story. It’s intriguing to trace the connections between this story and the original Wizard of Oz story by L. Frank Baum (the fate of Toto is eyebrow-raising), but more interesting is the insights into the various characters, like the long-hidden feelings of Tom’s wife Amelia.

    “Evian Steel” ― This story is a type of prequel to the King Arthur legend, set on Ynis Evelonia, an island of women who make the finest swords known in the kingdom. Elaine is sent to the island as a young girl, to live there for the rest of her life. It’s a difficult transition, but gradually she settles in and begins to get to know the other girls and to learn the art of sword making. When the time comes for Elaine’s older friend Veree to go through an initiation process, Elaine wishes to stand by her in her trial.

    In some of the other stories, Alice makes a return trip to Wonderland and has to face her greatest fear in the Jabberwock (“Tough Alice”), Beauty and the Beast channel O. Henry’s “

    ” with an outcome that I definitely did not expect (“The Gift of the Magicians”), Robin Hood’s dying mother has a terrifying request to make of his nurse when her son is born (“Our Lady of the Greenwood”), and Emily Dickinson meets … an unexpectedly inspiring space alien (“Sister Emily’s Lightship”). It’s a varied and imaginative collection.

    A few of these stories, like “The Bird,” in which Edgar and his young, ailing wife discuss their bothersome pet raven, are vignettes, glimpses of events in a character’s life, rich with imagery but perhaps too brief or one-note to make a lasting impression. On the other hand, “Wonder Land,” though even shorter, packs a sensual, feminist punch in three pages.

    Except for “The Bird,” these are previously published stories; for example, four of them appeared in an earlier Yolen short fiction collection,

    . Here, though, each story is accompanied by Yolen’s insightful story notes at the end of this collection, and by a blank verse poem (most of which are new) that relates topically or thematically to that story. For example, “Tough Alice,” in which Alice desperately battles the Jabberwock, is accompanied by this thought-provoking poem:

    is a circus worth visiting and revisiting from time to time.

  • Jessica

    Strange and wonderful. The last few stories, about Robin Hood, and Emily Dickinson, were my favorite. All the stories were elements of the family, twisted into something new. Stories about Alice and Dorothy, Beauty, and even Queen Victoria. Jane Yolen is just amazing, isn't she?

  • Amalia Gavea

    After The Night Circus and its success, books that contain this word have multiplied by the dozen. Naturally, this one attracted my attention immediately as short stories appeal to me immensely and I was very curious to see how the retellings of old folklore tales and popular children's stories would be handled by a

    After The Night Circus and its success, books that contain this word have multiplied by the dozen. Naturally, this one attracted my attention immediately as short stories appeal to me immensely and I was very curious to see how the retellings of old folklore tales and popular children's stories would be handled by a writer whose pedigree is quite extensive. I had no knowledge of her work prior to this, but the way she talks about it in her Notes speaks for itself....Putting this observation aside, I can say that the overall experience was quite interesting but not completely satisfying.

    : A beautiful, bittersweet tale about the greatest storyteller, his Ice Maiden and the stories that would be cherished by millions of children and adults throughout the centuries. This story is the jewel of the collection.

    : A modern addition to Barrie's Peter Pan with a pseudo-feminist touch. I didn't like this one. I found it as silly and blunt as its original source.

    :Alice finds the strength to laugh in the face of danger.This story has a beautiful message for young girls.

    : A weird version of "The Wizard of Oz" about the years Dorothy was missing from Kansas. I can't say I liked it. I didn't see the point in certain changes and I couldn't take the narrator seriously.

    :An eerie Scottish tale of scholars, fishermen and witches. Inspired by the Witch Trials during the reign of James V and a highlight in the collection.

    : A beautiful, sad, haunting imaginings of the grave in Glastonbury, once thought to belong to Arthur and Guinevere. You're definitely in for a surprise with this one.

    : A very short but very special story about two lovers and a raven. Yes, THAT raven....

    : A contemporary story of a mysterious girl in the night of the Summer Solstice.

    : The wonderful banter between Victoria and Disraeli as they try to forge the British Empire. It goes without saying that the iconic PM is the Jewel of the story.

    : A silly story imagining the marital life of Beauty and the Beast. Thank God this was very short because it was awful.

    : An elderly Alice longs to return to the magic world.

    : A story about the birth and christening of a boy who would become a legend for all time to come. And his name was Robin...

    : A story for Brother Blaise and Geoffrey of Monmouth. But it has nothing to do with the history of Britain. I found it a mediocre -at best- attempt to insert some supernatural, devilish horror in the collection. Disappointing..

    : This didn't make any sense. And not in a good way.....

    : This was an attempt to give voice to a key character in the Arthurian Cycle. An imagining of the childhood of Elaine, Lancelot's doomed wife, and her strange initiation in Avalon. The writer dropped the ball with this one, in epic proportions. I fear she tried to follow the tropes of Fantasy, throwing the Old Ways symbolism, the Goddess belief, Morgan, Merlin, Bedevere and what not in the mix, and the result was disastrous, in my opinion.

    : The final story, a tribute to Emily Dickinson and her spirit. This was extremely successful, written in beautiful, poetic, tragic language and invoking the feelings of the doomed artist to perfection.

    I will not comment on the Story Notes and Poems. The only thing I'd feel dishonest with myself not to mention is that an acknowledged writer doesn't need pompous remarks about her achievements or her religious background...

    I admit I am divided over how to rate this collection properly. In my opinion, there was much that was pretentious and pseudo-feminist, but many of the stories were some of the best I've read. I think that Yolen treated every story with respect on the original source but her attempts to bring certain themes into focus weren't very successful. Making something "modern"in order to be more relevant to a contemporary audience doesn't equal positive results. So, I rate this with 4 stars, because out of the 16 stories of the collection, 10 were really well-written. And yet, the rest were frightfully bad...I don't believe that the writer is the "Hans Christian Andersen of the United States" but I recommend this. Still, I'd advise you proceed with caution and perhaps you will enjoy it more than my nitpicking, exhaustively scrutinizing self. And perhaps the time is ripe for half-stars to finally arrive.

    My reviews can also be found on

  • Carrie

    The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen is a collection of short stories with an introduction to the works done by author Holly Black. I do believe some of these by Yolen at least have been published before but I was not familiar with her work so the entire collection was new to me. I'm not a huge fan of short stories myself but when seeing this I realized that some of the collection included stories on some of my favorite stories such as Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland so of course

    The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen is a collection of short stories with an introduction to the works done by author Holly Black. I do believe some of these by Yolen at least have been published before but I was not familiar with her work so the entire collection was new to me. I'm not a huge fan of short stories myself but when seeing this I realized that some of the collection included stories on some of my favorite stories such as Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland so of course I had to check this one out.

    Of course when all was said and done my favorites are the ones I was looking forward to reading although there were a few others within the book that I also quite enjoyed too. There were however a few stories that I wondered why they were even included as there didn't seem to be much to them but perhaps someone that loves short stories overall would enjoy them more than myself who is always thinking were is the rest of this when it comes to short stories or books. I think though that regardless of being a huge fan of this type of read if you are interested in retellings and new twists on old classics then you'll at least enjoy those stories.

    I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

    For more reviews please visit

  • Dannii Elle

    This is a mixed bag of stories, in all genres and styles, all combined by their (sometimes tenuous) links to original fairy tales, myths, and legends. These short retellings received a mixture of responses for me, with some being deceptively clever and poignantly written, to others falling short and feeling rather pointless. Whilst I enjoyed finding the myriad of original tales mentioned and did find this a well-written anthology, I wasn't sold on every one of the tales gathered within, and ther

    This is a mixed bag of stories, in all genres and styles, all combined by their (sometimes tenuous) links to original fairy tales, myths, and legends. These short retellings received a mixture of responses for me, with some being deceptively clever and poignantly written, to others falling short and feeling rather pointless. Whilst I enjoyed finding the myriad of original tales mentioned and did find this a well-written anthology, I wasn't sold on every one of the tales gathered within, and therefore could only give a mediocre star rating. This is, however, well-worth a read as some gems await to be discovered within.

    This focuses on the son of a washerwoman and a shoemaker. Right from the very beginning this seemed to evoke the classic fairy tale vibe, even before the intermission of any magical disturbances. Discontent with his life of poverty and struggle young Hans makes a bargain with the Ice Maiden that will see his current position in life reversed as he ages. But making a deal with the Ice Maiden is fraught with difficulties and loop-holes, as Hans will soon find out for himself.

    I enjoyed this tale but right up until the last few paragraphs wondered what the point of it all would be. Once the ending was revealed it completely changed the tone of the preceding writing and turned this into a joyful, lovely little piece.

    This also showcased some truly lovely penmanship. Peppered with lovely expressions, such as

    , I was eager to carry on with this collection to see if the others would prove to be as captivating.

    From the title I had assumed this to be a Peter Pan retelling, but with switched genders for the young island inhabitants. The appearance of Captain Hook in the very first paragraph proved this assumption correct.

    This revoked the darkness of the original Peter Pan tale, rather than retelling the Disney version, as Peter isn’t content with just one Wendy and has stolen a total of sixteen young girls to serve him and his horde of lost boys.

    This is a modern feminist re-visioning of the Wendys’ fate. The expectations of the females to serve the males is accepted by all the previous Wendys, taken from throughout history and seen as figureheads of their individual time periods, but it takes the modern-day Wendy to inform them of the unfairness of this treatment. With new notions of gender equality invading their thoughts, the Wendy’s revolt! And through this political uprising the reader is made aware of the satirical and political edge to this tale, and a democratic community is created to replace the previously accepted dictatorship.

    The original Alice is one of my favourite books so I was eagerly anticipating reading this re-telling. I was initially disappointed,as the first portion of this was just a whistle-stop tour of the events from the original. That is, until the battle with the Jaberwock.

    This felt most like a traditional fairy tale, as it was tinged with a moralistic edge that gave the events a wry feel. Despite its shortness this left the reader much to mull over and, again like the original tales, had an ageless and timeless appeal because of this.

    This Wizard of Oz retelling began much like the original, only with Toto’s fate being decidedly less wholesome than in the original. Once the tornado hit Dorothy’s farm and she disappeared with the winds, this follows the lives of those left behind to mourn her.

    When Dorothy returns she tells the story of what happened whilst she was far away. As part of the Emerald Circus, which this anthology is named after, she lived an extraordinary life before returning, seven years later, to her rural farm life. She changed the way the farm folk viewed their lives and inspired a yearn for otherness in some, or an acceptance of their lot in others. I found the ending of this as poignant as the others but it just missed out on the insightfulness the others seemed to achieve.

    This probably had the best title of the collection and, so, I was intrigued and excited to begin reading it.

    It was easy to fall in love with a protagonist who loves books but the rest of the story kept me at a distance. For such a short piece there seemed too much preamble before the main point of the story. I also think the fantasy of the story is obvious to a reader who is aware of fables including amphibians. Once set up nothing happens for some time and I found this a dull addition to the anthology.

    The Quiet Monk has come to join the brotherhood and share the burden that haunts him. His mysterious past makes him the focus of much speculation and eagerness to learn what drove him to wandering and religion.

    This brought some much needed diversity to the collection and, whilst I was not aware of any original tale it was based from, enjoyed the legends evoked in the piece. This was another slower paced story, like the last three, yet I thought it worked well in this instance.

    This begun with a hilarious anecdote of a bird who defecates wherever it lands. Its owner is at the end of his tether with his uncontrollable pet. But however negatively he feels towards it, he feels quite the opposite for Virginia. This object of his affections is brought to meet the bird but It ends up delivering far more than just amusement.

    Despite the shortness of this piece it managed to deliver a surprise ending that belied the frivolity of its beginning. In a Gothic twist of events this managed to completely turn the tone of the tale around in just a few paragraphs.

    The reader is invited to feel nothing but dislike and distrust for the protagonist, who willingly cheats on his betrothed during his bachelor party. I adore stories with unlikable focal characters, so this immediately intrigued me. Before this even got started it seemed to end, however, which stunted my enjoyment.

    This follows on, in dual perspectives, from one discussions between two individuals - Disraeli and Queen Victoria. Whilst with a distinct magical twist, the basis for this story is authentic and an unlikely friendship did, in fact, form between the renowned duo.

    This is a fascinating insight to the historical period detailed. Discussions of religion and belief dominate and form much of the text’s focus. Through these conversations a heartening relationship is formed and the reader is privy to its conception.

    The note by the title exclaims ‘with apologies for You Know Who’, which evoked a link to Harry Potter, in my mind. Immediately, though, the reader is introduced to Belle and the Beast, which confused me, before this quickly transforming into an Alice in Wonderland retelling. There was too much going on in this one for me to understand any of it.

    I believe this is my first ever Robin Hood retelling so I was intrigued with what I was going to discover. This begun nothing like the original tale and with no discernible links to it. A boy is born on the stroke of midnight and, with instructions from his now deceased mother, the midwife is to deliver him to the fae who reside in the forest. The woman’s journey through the glade is penned with a poetic beauty that made me feel the dappled moonlight and gentle stroke of leaves, as we made our way to the forest’s heart together. It also made me feel the creep of dread with what possibilities could lay in the shadows.

    Despite enjoying this tale I wondered where the links to the renowned Robin Hood would come about. The reader is not provided with this information until the very last line. This, like the earlier pieces in this collection, used the withholding of information to the story’s power and made this a far stronger piece by doing so.

    This tale was set in the year 1125, in a monastery. A young girl falls pregnant within the confines of the monastery walls and claims it to be the product of a liaison that happened entirely inside her dreams. Despite the brothers of the monastery crying of the devil’s work, I could not help but to see links between this story and that of the biblical birth of Jesus. Whether that was the author’s intention or not, I can not say.

  • Paul

    This is a perfectly pleasant collection of fairy tales-with-a-twist – including"Wendy" leading a labor movement against Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, 80-year-old Alice returning to Wonderland, the "true story" of what happened to Dorothy when the tornado got her, imagined backstories to poems by Poe and Dickinson, and a couple of Arthurian additions. Only a couple were what I'd call top notch, but none was bad either. I'm not sure how many of them I'll remember a few months from now. A solid thre

    This is a perfectly pleasant collection of fairy tales-with-a-twist – including"Wendy" leading a labor movement against Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, 80-year-old Alice returning to Wonderland, the "true story" of what happened to Dorothy when the tornado got her, imagined backstories to poems by Poe and Dickinson, and a couple of Arthurian additions. Only a couple were what I'd call top notch, but none was bad either. I'm not sure how many of them I'll remember a few months from now. A solid three-star offering.

  • Sherwood Smith

    This collection gathers a number of Jane Yolen's short stories from other anthologies, except for one new story (a riff on Poe). Though Yolen most of her 300 books are for kid readers, I don't think this collection is for the young.

    I've read most of these stories over the past three decades, which are predominantly twists on fairy tales or old folklore. Yolen was doing it before it became popular, and some hold up better than others. My favorite two are the first and last, the first a tribute to

    This collection gathers a number of Jane Yolen's short stories from other anthologies, except for one new story (a riff on Poe). Though Yolen most of her 300 books are for kid readers, I don't think this collection is for the young.

    I've read most of these stories over the past three decades, which are predominantly twists on fairy tales or old folklore. Yolen was doing it before it became popular, and some hold up better than others. My favorite two are the first and last, the first a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen (whose stories, incidentally, I loathed as a child, as they were all so sad, and no little girl came out well in any of them) but this one still moved me as a beautiful tribute.

    The last story, a science fiction story about Emily Dickinson and a visitor from the stars, is my favorite of all her stories.

    Best of all is an essay at the end talking about the various stories and their inspirations, with poetry at the end of each note. This essay is a must for Yolen fans; even the stories that don't quite work for this or that reader might become more interesting after one reads the notes. Especially writers, who like to see what an author was aiming for.

    Altogether a lovely collection, but I wouldn't give it to anyone under sixteen without reading it first.

    Copy provided by NetGalley

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