Wow…this book was really good. I had never read this author before. But I was so intrigued with the concept of the book that I had to try it. I am now a huge fan of this author and have already read two more of her books since this one.
This story has a mild steampunk setting. Gilbert is a magician who makes a living as a street/pub scam artist. He runs afoul of a very powerful bad guy and in making a run for. He runs into Jesse and his group of "freaks". Jessie is the powerful ringmaster for the Circus of the Damned. Jesse tells Gilbert they will help him, but he has to join their circus. The catch, Gilbert will never be able to leave and if they don't meet the requirements of the circus their souls will all be sent to Hell. Gilbert joins, thinking he can escape at a later time. But he soon finds out he cannot.
There is a lot of adventure in this story and a lot of interesting and quirky characters. There's magic and circus freaks and a very interesting devil. The best part of the story to me was the love story between Gilbert and Jessie. There is a complicated and kind of sad history between the devil Farfarello and Jessie. If you're looking for a unique plot with a bit of everything in it, this is definitely a book to try.
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.