“Cass has always wanted to audition as an acrobat for the famous Circus Boat that sails the warm seas of the Longest World. But when her chance is snatched away, she comes up with a new plan. Soon she has secured a job on the Palace Boat, following the circus around the islands. Yet Cass has been invited on the boat for a very different reason – and it’s not long before she is embroiled with thieves, sword fighters and a mysterious group of women called The Company of Eight…”
Middle grade fiction is not something I read a lot of but sometimes my daughters will insist that I read a book they have particularly enjoyed. Such a book I read earlier this year was The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave which Mini Me adores and has recommended to everyone she knows. When I saw this book on NetGalley, I thought I would give it a read and see if it was something she might enjoy. Plus, who isn’t a sucker for a story set in a circus?
This book does indeed have a lot in common with The Girl of Ink & Stars. A strong teenage female protagonist, exotic, foreign world and tales of derring-do. Plus, this book has the aforementioned circus (one which tours around on a ship, to add to the excitement), pirates, an island full only of strong women, sword-fighting a-plenty and a secret company of female…spies I suppose you might call them.
I really enjoyed this book. The world-building was well done, the story rolled along at a great pace and I really enjoyed the female lead, Cass. In fact, there were a lot of strong female characters in this book which is always something I am looking for, being the mum/step-mum of 5 daughters. I liked the way that the women were in charge of their own destinies, not damsels in distress waiting for the boys to sail to their rescue.
I wish there had been a little more time spent in the circus and more detail about the different acts and characters. The chapter where Cass finally confronts the pirates and the following chapter seemed a little rushed, as if the author could see the end in sight and were galloping to the finish, which made the pacing uneven at the end. However, these are minor niggles in a book that I don’t regret investing the time in.
I would definitely recommend this book for children who enjoy this kind of fantasy novel and I have now bought a paperback copy for my children to read. I’ll come back and give you their feedback once they have read it.
I believe this is the start of a series of books set in this world starring Cass and her friends and I look forward to the next one.
The Company of Eight is out now and you can buy a copy here.
My thanks to NetGalley and Little Tiger Group and Stripes Publishing for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
About the Author
Harriet Whitehorn is the author of the award-nominated VIOLET books, a middle-grade detective series from Simon and Schuster. Titles include VIOLET AND THE PEARL OF THE ORIENT, and VIOLET AND THE SMUGGLERS. Nominations include the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award. Harriet lives in London with her husband and three daughters.
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