Monday, 24 September 2012

INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders - L. Leander

Frustrated and longing to live a different life - one that doesn't involving tending a farm and marrying a farm boy - Bertha Anderson's hillbilly life changes when the circus comes to town.

Not expecting to ever see it, she is surprised when her Ma agrees to go and along with her father and older brother Ezra, they enter a colorful world. There their senses are assaulted with the exciting smells, sights and sounds - popcorn, animals and side show curiosities. There Bertha meets Cecil. A beautiful, wrinkled elephant. Also an attraction, but just to her, is Cecil's handsome trainer Paytre (pronounced Peter).

In a moment of recklessness, Bertha makes the decision to leave the farm behind and join the Romanoff Brothers Circus. From that brave moment onward, her life becomes the adventure and excitement that she yearned for. Noticing the affinity and genuine affection between Cecil and Bertha, the owners ask Paytre to train her to perform acrobatic maneuvers atop Cecil. Bertha, always hating her name, is renamed as Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders - the star attraction.

Hard work and commitment ensues as well as the growing love for Paytre. A love that she's unsure of. At 17 what does she know of love? Together, with Cecil, they become a huge hit but life in the circus isn't all about performances. Inzared must learn and accept the gypsy lifestyle, plus she was not born into the 'family' so is initially ostracized by many - they don't trust outsiders. Will Inzared be able to gain approval from the gypsy clan? Would her family forgive her for abandoning them, who exactly is sabotaging the circus and will the sense of foreboding that she can't shake come true?

This turn of the century story is a colorful tale of almost everyone's dream - running away with the circus. Leander's main characters are lively, charming and amiable. Inzared/Bertha has a beguiling innocence yet is so driven. Her compassion for Cecil is endearing as is her budding love for Paytre. The circus/Roma family met along the way are almost stereotypical - the midget, the bearded lady, the tough but fair owners - yet its typicality is what makes it a charming and absorbing read.

A lengthy novel, for the most part I really enjoyed this story. I was engaged from the beginning and immediately liked Inzared and Paytre, even Cecil. The details of circus life as well as that of the Roma people are expressive and creates a vibrant atmosphere. The mystery of sabotage, the deep and passionate love that unfolds throughout is enticing but I feel that it has been a little lost by its overall length. A couple of subplots are started then ignored and the ending left me a little wanting. I didn't understand that this is a 'Part 1' at the time of reading, so now that I know, I can forgive the abrupt ending.

Despite the moments of repetition and Inzared's hillbilly voice sounding at times more educated that one would expect her to be, the story is good and the author has created a world in which to escape to. A recommended read for those who like the circus and romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author to review. The opinions expressed are own and I am not expected to give a positive critique.

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