Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Unrivalled Spangles

The Unrivalled Spangles

By Karen Wallace 


In the Victorian era, not far from London, the two Spangle sisters, Ellen and Lucy, are living and working in their family circus. Ellen and her younger sister Lucy perform an act called the Incredible Scarletta Sisters. It is a dangerous act: it involves standing on horses, doing somersaults, and jumping off a horse to land on another. In their act Ellen is a sensational perfectionist.  Lucy is a daredevil and is always trying new tricks. Ellen and her sister have a good friendship and are the best performers in the circus, but Ellen hates being a circus girl. She doesn't want her future to lie in the circus because she knows  there is more to discover.   She also knows there is a world of experiences waiting for her outside of the circus.

After years and years at the circus, Ellen decides to take tutoring under a false name, behind her parents' backs, so that she might one day leave the circus and become a teacher.  Soon, however, she finds herself in love and must balance her new love and studying with preparations for the the end-of-season performance. Lucy is aware of her sister's lessons and her boyfriend but doesn't mind because it gives her more time to practice dangerous tricks on her horse.  Soon, however, Lucy finds herself in love -- but with the wrong person -- Joe Morgan, of a rival circus.

With Joe, Lucy becomes more reckless in her training and begins training for a backwards somersault on a moving horse -- the most dangerous trick ever known.  The trick could cost Lucy her life. When Ellen becomes aware of this, she knows that she must stop her sister at all costs.


As you may know from my last review, I didn't enjoy the last book I read. When my mum showed me this book, I thought 'circus -- boring.'  And I felt that my bad book rut was going to continue.  However, The Unrivalled Spangles was great! It was a good book to put my reading interests back on track. It had a great story, cliff-hangers and was not boring!

I haven't really read a lot of books about the circus, and that is because I am not a big fan of circuses. However, The Unrivalled Spangles made circus life interesting. I enjoyed reading about how people prepared their tricks for their acts, and I enjoyed reading about the life of people living in a circus.  It is a very different lifestyle.  Everyone is always practicing and performing new and difficult tricks -- even some you might not be able to imagine!  This book was also very appealing to me because I love horses and when Ellen and Lucy do their acts on their horses it is even better!

I think that Ellen is a character that a lot of young girls (ages 9-14) could relate to. Ellen is a great role model because she is someone who always wants to learn about the world and help others, even when her parents forbid her. Ellen is also someone that girls could find inspirational because she is a very caring and loving older sister. Ellen always wants to protect and help Lucy and the two sisters are like best friends in the book.

I think that a lot of girls who are older sisters (or even younger sisters) and are fighting with their sister (or brother) could maybe think of their sibling in a different, more kind, more supporting way after they read The Unrivalled Spangles. This book shows that your sibling could also be your best friend.

217 pages


  1. I haven't read any books about the circus! Oh wait, wasn't there a Famous Five book about the circus?!?! Maybe I read that one.

    How many books have you read so far this year?

  2. Yes. "Five go off in a Caravan". Not that I have read it however. I enjoyed your review.

  3. Dear Toria,

    Yes Grampo is right. There IS a Famous Five book about the circus, and it IS called Five Go Off in a Caravan. I haven't read it but I have it on my bookshelf. In fact I have about 15 Famous Five books on my bookshelf. Two of these are new but the others are old and were given to me by my mum! Even though these are old books and maybe kids don't read them as much now, maybe I should review one of them!

    You asked me how many books I've read so far this year and I can't remember the exact number. I have counted all of the books that I am SURE I read this least 10 books in English and then couple of French books and short stories.

    Thanks for your comments, keep reading,