Circus of the Unseen

Joanne Owen
"Staying alive isn't easy in the world of the dead"
Circus of the Unseen – picture

Staying alive isn’t easy in the world of the dead

After an accident at her grandmother’s house, Rosie is transported to a strange and sinister world populated by a cast of carnivalesque characters who reside in the Circus of the Unseen. Reigning over them is an old woman called Mother Matushka, who guards the threshold between life and death and has extraordinary powers over all around her.

This is an in-between world, a bizarre and trapped existence, but Rosie is not like the others here. She seems to be hovering between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and even seems to have the power to challenge Mother Matushka. Can Rosie escape Mother Matushka’s formidable rule and a world in limbo? And can she solve another mystery – one that lies at the heart of her grandmother’s life?

Publication Date: Thu 6 Nov 2014
ISBN Paperback: 9781471401145
ISBN Ebook: 9781471401152



Joanne Owen

Joanne Owen was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and read Social and Political Sciences with Archaeology and Anthropology at St John's College, Cambridge. Now living in North London, Joanne has published two previous Young Adult novels. Steeped in the atmosphere of nineteenth century Prague, PUPPET MASTER blends the magic of marionette theatre with Czech folklore and legends. Described by The Guardian as 'timeless', PUPPET MASTER was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and Branford Boase award and has been translated into several languages.

Her second novel, THE ALCHEMIST AND THE ANGELS is a fantastical, historical epic set in sixteenth century Prague, among the plague-ridden ghettos and decadent court of mad Emperor Rudolf. It wasdescribed by School Librarian as 'An imaginative tour de force'. Follow Joanne on Facebook at or on Twitter: @JoanneOwen


We went deeper into the forest, faster and faster, with the mist chasing at our heels. We swerved sharply to the right and stopped on the edge of a crater. There were clouds beneath us, forming a kind of cocoon over it. I stepped back from the edge, my head spinning and hands clammy from being up so high. It was like looking down through the sky. Then I felt a rumbling and a droning vibration rising through my feet, like the earth was throbbing, and through the mist I could see a settlement in the valley below.There was an enormous red and white Big Top at its centre, ringed by trees. 'Is this a circus? You're from a circus?' 'It's not just a circus, silly,' said Coco. 'We're a secret. We're the Circus of the Unseen.' 'What do you mean?' 'Well, have you seen it before?' I supposed Lola had a point. I hadn't seen it before, but then, why would I have? I didn't know where I was. I might have been a few miles from home, or a million. She took hold of me again and we swooped into the valley. The bank was steep, almost vertical, and we plunged down so fast it felt like we were actually flying and I'd left my stomach on the edge. The momentum was so strong I carried on hurtling forwards, even after we'd reached the bottom. When I eventually stopped and caught my breath, I heard music again, but this sounded like real musicians were playing it. I couldn't see them clearly through the trees, but I could see movement, and could hear violins being bowed, cellos being stroked, drums being struck. The noise made me feel queasy. All the jerky strings, and honking horns and a clanking piano that sounded like someone was dancing up and down on the keys. It sounded like a wonky-wheeled cart, and every time the music skipped a beat it was like the cart had hit a rock and was about to overturn. But there was something keeping it upright. Through the madness of it all, beyond the chaos, a calm drone underpinned everything. And then I saw the source of the drone. There was a girl sitting alone, away from the trees, away from the others. She was dressed in a kind of traditional folk costume, working the bellows of her accordion as if it was part of her, not just an attachment strapped to her chest. She couldn't have been more than five, but her music was . . . I don't know, it sounded wise. She sounded older than her years. I closed my eyes and found myself swaying in time with the music. The spell was broken by a jab in my ribs.