Book Review: Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth

Publisher: Random House UK – Cornerstone
Format: ebook
Release Date: April 14th, 2022

Rating: 5/5 Stars

When Zillah steps on stage at Crillick’s Variety Theatre, she steps into the persona of The Great Amazonia, an exotic wonder who certainly draws in the crowds. But Zillah must hide herself, and outside the theatre, she has to hide Amazonia, the penalty for the lie being too high for her to pay. She has a good job, earning decent money, and even has the attentions of a wealthy, influential man, and as a mixed-race woman, Zillah feels she can’t risk that.

Until she realises how fragile her life is, her lack of control, and how there are always things worth risking everything for. For Zillah, it’s Crillick’s new act who quickly goes missing, and she desperately sets out to find the woman.

This is such a good book! It’s got a strong Mystery vibe to it, as Zillah uncovers more of what’s really going on. There’s an element of Romance, as she finds herself caught between a white Viscount, slightly down on his luck due to a falling out with his father, and an African shop owner, who helps Zillah embark on her emotional journey.

The setting is detail rich, bringing to life seedy elements of Victorian London, when ‘gentlemen’ were anything but. The novel doesn’t shy away from the way Zillah is treated, and her struggles, caught between different worlds where she doesn’t really feel like she belongs in either. Her journey starts with her in a fairly comfortable position, and it’s only when she looks at herself through someone else’s eyes she takes steps to change things.

Through her journey, Zillah’s eyes are further opened and she fights back against it, alongside the shopkeeper Lucien, and Zillah learns about the new initiative to relocate to Sierra Leone, though it takes her – a London girl through and through – a while to see this in a good light. She learns to truly embrace all parts of herself and become empowered through it.

I don’t want to go into the plot too much more, but I absolutely loved Zillah and following her journey. She’s a character with a lot of empathy, yet who is closed off from parts of herself, and it takes a big step for her to come to terms with it. When she does, however, she grows and changes, and becomes determined to do the right thing.

Thank you to Random House for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley – views remain my own.

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