The First Bright Thing by J. R. Dawson: Mesmerizing and Magical

Ringmaster — Rin, to those who know her best — can jump to different moments in time as easily as her wife, Odette, soars from bar to bar on the trapeze. And the circus they lead is a rare home and safe haven for magical misfits and outcasts, known as Sparks.

With the world still reeling from World War I, Rin and her troupe — the Circus of the Fantasticals — travel the midwest, offering a single night of enchantment and respite to all who step into their Big Top.

But threats come at Rin from all sides. The future holds an impending war that the Sparks can see barrelling toward their show and everyone in it. And Rin’s past creeps closer every day, a malevolent shadow she can’t fully escape.

It takes the form of another circus, with tents as black as midnight and a ringmaster who rules over his troupe with a dangerous power. Rin’s circus has something he wants, and he won’t stop until it’s his.

In The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson, I found a mesmerizing and magical journey of words. The very first thing I noticed was the lyrical and compelling words and an introduction that pulls you in as though you’re attending the circus along with the people in the novel. I could almost smell the popcorn and see the clowns. But beyond the lyrical words is a heartfelt and hopeful story of love and found family, one that will do anything they can to keep the shadows at bay and keep love alive. 

Part of the reason that this is so mesmerizing is how the story is told, between the present and the past with glimpses of the future. The ability of Rin to jump from time to time allows us to see just how her own story unfolds and why she has created a safe haven for the Sparks. It also allows us to see how darkness and hatred can spread unless we create little sparks of hope and brightness in those around us. What makes this story so mesmerizing and magical is the joy and love that this family of Sparks have for each other even in the face of darkness and evil, war and death. And really life is all about finding little bright moments of hope to keep going even in difficult times.

If you love magic and the circus, this novel is a must read. It will brighten your spirit and while the dark moments will break your heart, the hopeful nature will keep you reading. The love of family and the idea of helping each other with kindness and love is compelling and will make readers fall in love with Rin’s story. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 big tents 

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