Gwenda Bond – Girl on a Wire

gwendabond-girlonawireSixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch, and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

One of the two inaugural authors for Strange Chemistry back in the day and one of my favourites from their list is Gwenda Bond. I’ve read and enjoyed both her previous novels, Blackwood and The Woken Gods, and thought her newest offering, Girl on a Wire sounded very intriguing. Thus, when the author approached me about reviewing it, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. And it has to be said, that with Girl on a Wire Bond remains on form. It was a delightful story with some very dark twists and genuine heartbreak. 

In essence, Girl on a Wire is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in the modern-day circus. Yet it’s not solely focused on the love affair between Jules and Remy, but also on the reason their families are feuding in the first place. Consequently, there are several mysteries in the book. The first and most pressing one is the identity of the person who is trying to sabotage the Maroni’s, the second one is the cause of the long-standing feud that’s fuelling the sabotage. These two questions are closely intertwined and I enjoyed the various sleights of hand Bond displays in revealing the answers, she wrong-footed me a few times.

The circus is a place that has always had a sense of magic and mystique about it and probably always will. The circus has always been a place where people, often outsiders, ran away too and circus folk are often portrayed as a close knit community and not always of the most respected kind. In Girl on a Wire the community is indeed close knit, but as the book is told from within the circus, there is no sense of the exotic about the magic and mystique of the circus; there is the love and passion for their art and craft, but none of the romanticism—Jules and her family and the other members of the circus work very, very hard at what they do and this is clearly shown. I loved the details Bond added in on wire work and the references she included. In fact when Nik Wallenda was in the news for his latest daredevil act I immediately had to think of Jules and Girl in a Wire. In fact, I even tweeted the author about how Jules did it first.

Jules is a fabulous main character. She’s head strong, ambitious, snarky when she needs to be, and she is Maroni to the core. Family is what is most important to Jules, almost as integral to her life as is the wire. Her relationship with her dad was one of my favourite things about this story. Jules and Emil are very close and Emil is Jules’ biggest idol. While she’s obviously close to both her parents, it’s clear that her dad is her hero. The other Maroni’s, Jules’ grandmother Nan and her cousin Sam, are wonderful too and the four of them form a close family group. I love position Nan has as Mater Familias and the way they all look to her for sage advice and approval. Jules’ inevitable Romeo is Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia family who drove Nan and Emil out of the main circus circuit years ago. I liked Remy, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, whether he’s dealing with his family or with Jules’, even if he isn’t ready to openly defy them over Jules. However, my favourite Garcia had to be Remy’s little sister Dita. Dita has a tremendous sense of self, even if she’s still figuring out her identity. She’s genderqueer and as such is looked at a bit askance by her mother and eldest brother, but she’s very close to Remy and I loved how her own love story developed. The reader mostly glimpses it from afar, but she and her paramour are so lovely  and sweet together, that the way their story played out completely broke my heart.

In fact, Girl on a Wire was a heartbreaking story overall. The events described and their roots in the past encompass so much love, hurt and grief. Yet despite the heartbreak, there is also a lot of laughter and I really enjoyed the lighter scenes between Jules and Remy and Jules and Sam. Our Jules has witty repartee aplenty. The book ends on hope and a new beginning and left me with a smile. I loved Girl on a Wire and with her third novel Gwenda Bond has firmly landed on my must-read author list. If you enjoy fast-paced, fun YA with a dash of mystery and romance then do pick up Girl on a Wire, as it offers this in spades. And that’s not even mentioning its gorgeous cover.

This book was provided for review by the author.