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by Rosie Garland

4 stars

Part historical romance, part surreal fantasy, Rosie Garland brings to life a unique, unforgiving and, at times, horrifying vision of the Victorian freak show. This is the story of 2 ‘curiosities’: Eve, the Lion Faced Girl and Abel, the man who does not bleed. It took me a little time to warm to this. The early chapters are rather slow, and the tale opens with a scene of horrific animal cruelty, before moving on to even worse brutality – to animals and humans too – that I was skipping through whole chunks of text and thinking I might abandon it unfinished. But this strange and beautifully literary tale got under my skin, and soon became completely riveting. At first, it was Abel’s tale, more than Eve’s, that really fascinated me, but when the two came together – as exhibits in Josiah Arroner’s Palace of Curiosities – the story came alive and held me spellbound, completely absorbed in Eve and Abel’s strange, harsh, unique world.

Beautifully written throughout. 4 stars (rather than 5), only because the infrequent, (but very graphic) violence and cruelty was just too much for me.

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