At some point in time, we all have an urge to run away and “join the circus”. Whether or not it’s an actual circus is beside the point. We want to get away from where we are and explore a different type of life.
Bertha Maude Anderson does just that. A self-described “hillbilly” eking out a hard life in the hills of 1843 North Carolina, she dreams of seeing the world rather than being stuck in her present situation. Being a young teenager with few choices in her life, she is desperate to escape constant chores and the same existence her parents have had.
When the circus, with the exotic animals, an elephant named Cecil, and the dark-eyed Paytre (“Peter”) comes to town, she is literally swept up into their lifestyle. Without a thought aforehand, she drops everything and joins the circus, becoming “Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders”.
Being Gagi (non-gypsy) in a gypsy circus world is not an easy life at first, but eventually she is accepted by most of the troupe. Especially Paytre. Their relationship becomes the most important aspect of her existence. He helps her expand her abilities to ride and do tricks on Cecil, the elephant who seems to love her deeply.
Yet not all is roses and sunshine in their world. Someone is sabotaging the circus, and it takes a tragedy to find the culprits and solve the mystery. As a result, no one’s lives will be the same.
Once I got going on this book, I found myself unable to stop. L. Leander’s descriptions weave like a mist through the mind and hold the reader’s attention. One description, among so many, stands out as a terrific example: “The fire took on a life of its own as it danced and crackled. Red and yellow flames leapt high into the sky. Basking in its glow were those who made music, the fiddle and guitar joining and parting like two hands clapping in perfect rhythm.” Sheer verbal music.
The details of gypsy and circus life were simply fantastic. The author seems to have gypsy blood herself, or she did some painstaking research. The characters were all very believable and well-developed, and the storyline was tightly written. The sympathetic ones were people a reader could really like, and the baddies were definitely written in that fashion.
Another example of L. Leander’s suspenseful, well-written style was a chapter in which the circus is performing. The way she wrote the scene, especially coming after sabotage was discovered, made me hold my breath and peek at the next couple of lines, sure that something terrible was going to happen. When it didn’t, I felt myself finally relaxing, it was that real.
L. Leander’s book is well worth the time to read it, and I hope she writes more. I want to hear more about the exploits of “Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders”.