Jane Yolen’s brilliant THE EMERALD CIRCUS delivers deft, toothy, and graceful pleasures

A quartet of reviews for Jane Yolen’s recommended THE EMERALD CIRCUS.

Photo: Jason Stemple

In a starred review, Meagan Logsdon for FOREWORD REVIEWS enjoys the collection.

THE EMERALD CIRCUS is a moving collection of stories that conveys timeless truths as it affectionately plays with traditional tales.

Jane Yolen’s latest collection is a wonderful menagerie of twists on classic fairy tales, legends, and the lives of literary figures. These stories parade beneath a circus tent knit by the underlying theme of the power of art.


The prose never fails to entrance, and the creativity on display impresses. There is an obvious depth of research and care, particularly evident in “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown,” a tale centering on Disraeli, the intriguing Jewish-turned-Anglican prime minister of Victoria’s England on two separate occasions. Notes in the back on each individual story offer a peek into the mind of the writer and give context for Yolen’s inspiration. These are interspersed with a few of her own poems, which are warm and inviting.

THE EMERALD CIRCUS dances at the border between bucking tradition and paying homage to the great stories and figures of ages past. The result is a brilliant assemblage of narratives with the potential to leave an audience spellbound.

At STRANGE HORIZONS, Catherine Rockwood praises the book.

Yolen is justly famous for revisions or retellings of stories from the diverse, high-piled treasure-house of folklore and myth, and in places here she also engages with received historical anecdote. (For instance, “A Knot of Toads” is plotted around the 16th-century accusation and trial of the Witches of Berwick, instigated by King James VI of Scotland, aka James I of England.) In all cases, it’s worth asking a few questions: “Does this retelling need to be done? For whom is it being done, and why?” “Need” is of course a tricky word. We’re getting better at embracing pleasure-in-reading as sufficient cause for carrying on as much as we bloody well like with whichever authors have the knack of delivering what we enjoy. And as I hope I’ve made clear, a good number of deft, toothy, and graceful pleasures reside in Yolen’s EMERALD CIRCUS.

SABRINA’S LIBRARY recommends the volume.

THE EMERALD CIRCUS has a story for everyone. Yolen selects old tales and makes them new and surprising and yet instantly recognizable. The collection features a slate of disenfranchised Wendys (from Peter Pan); Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin of the Arthurian legends; Alice and company from the Wonderland stories; Dorothy and the gang before the big twister. These stories are also rich in atmosphere inspired by Yolen’s travels, particularly “A Knot of Toads,” which is spooky and moody and makes me want to move to Scotland immediately.


For lovers of fairy tales, folklore, and a cracking good yarn, I highly recommend THE EMERALD CIRCUS.


It is definitely one worth reading. I loved it! It’s a little funny that this is being released this year, as I just re-read Sister Light, Sister Dark a few months ago. Up until then I hadn’t read a Yolen book in years. It was sitting on the shelf in my bedroom staring at me, and so I picked it up and loved it all over again. Seeing this on the NetGalley roster brought back a flood of emotions. I was excited to read THE EMERALD CIRCUS, and was not disappointed in the least. 

For more info on THE EMERALD CIRCUS, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover design by Elizabeth Story