Reviews of Theatre Of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth

Theatre Of Marvels

A Novel

by Lianne Dillsworth

Theatre Of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth X
Theatre Of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Apr 2022, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set amid the bustle of Victorian London, an irresistible story of an ambitious young Black actress, an orphan from the slums who has finally achieved a dubious stardom as "The Great Amazonia, a savage African queen" - but everything she has fought for depends on hiding the secret of her own identity.

As an orphan in the slums of St. Giles, Zillah was determined never to become part of the notorious Blackbird gang. With nothing to rely on but her own wit, she convinces infamous producer Marcus Stratton to hire her for his variety show in nineteenth-century London. But the act Stratton has in mind for Zillah is as The Great Amazonia, "a savage queen from darkest Africa." His drunken audience laps this up, and as Zillah's star rises, Stratton makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that her survival depends on her true identity staying secret. This careful planning is upended when Zillah finds herself caught between the attention of a mysterious Black gentleman and Stratton's Viscount friend, who promises her the world. When another young Black woman in Stratton's employ goes missing, Zillah realizes she'll have to make a choice: follow her ambitions, or stay true to herself.

Theatre of Marvels is a thrilling love story, a piercing commentary on a brutal racial history, and a delicious Victorian adventure.

I
The African in the Audience

Go to the theatre much? No, nor me. At least not before I became an actress. I know what you're thinking. Actress, eh? But you can keep your dirty-minded thoughts to yourself. I trod the boards and no more. Doesn't mean I don't have a story or two to tell, mind. Would you be kind enough to indulge me if I talked about the old days? Hard as it was back then, I can't say that if I had my time again I'd change it.

That feeling you get before the show starts. Whether you've been up Drury Lane once, twice, or ten times, I reckon you'll know it. It comes up on you as the lights go down. The fizzing in your belly conjured by cheap gin and jellied eels at a farthing a pot. Keep your eyes hard fixed on the curtain in front of you. Those red velvet folds, with their heavy gold trim. You're so eager at the thought of the performance to come, you tell yourself you saw it move. But if you really want first peek it's best to look to the left of the stage. Time it right...

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Reviews

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The novel is effectively evocative of the Victorian era and rich in period detail. Despite this, it always remains pacey, keeping readers on their toes with a good dose of intrigue and plenty of twists. A few threads feel somewhat rushed towards the end, as the narrative skirts on the edge of melodrama, but on the whole, Dillsworth balances the various characters and plot points well by always keeping her spirited heroine at the story's heart...continued

Full Review Members Only (492 words).

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Dillsworth's engrossing debut probes the underbelly of Victorian London's musical theatre scene...Dillsworth's graphic descriptions of pungent docks, warehouses, opium dens, and back alleys create an immersive atmosphere, and the author rounds things out with strong secondary characters...It all adds up to a stunning historical drama.

Library Journal
Thoroughly researched details of life in Victorian London and Zillah's chatty narration create very appealing historical fiction. Purchase for readers who love Victorian settings and independent, feisty women characters.

Kirkus Reviews
While Dillsworth does a decent job of evoking Victorian London and her pacing isn't terrible, readers will see the plot twists, such as they are, coming a mile (kilometre?) away. Dillsworth shows some promise, but this novel never manages to rise above the level of unremarkable.

Author Blurb Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne
Theatre of Marvels is a fascinating, empowering story of a young woman's search for identity and justice in Victorian London, a world which Lianne Dillsworth evokes so richly.

Author Blurb Laura Purcell, author of The Silent Companions
A dazzling tale of self-discovery with a cast of vivid characters. I loved it.

Author Blurb Stacey Hall, bestselling author of The Familiars
Richly evocative and glittering with atmosphere.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme

Black-and-white illustration of  a view of Freetown, Sierra Leone on the coast of the Sierra Leone River, 1803 In Lianne Dillsworth's novel Theatre of Marvels, a settlement plan resembling the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme comes to represent the possibility of a fresh start, freedom and community for the story's heroine, Zillah, and fellow Black people living in Victorian Britain who are struggling to feel like they belong.

Located on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone was used as a location for British trade from the mid-17th century onward, including the slave trade, before eventually being colonized. Following the abolition of slavery in Britain in 1772, the African country was soon earmarked as a potential destination for former slaves and their descendants. The Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme was put into action in the late 18th ...

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