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Come See the Fair, by Gavriel Savit

Review copy provided by the publisher.

When orphaned Eva has a chance to escape the horrible person who has been using her to run fake seances, she jumps at the chance–especially when it leads her to the glitter of the 1893 World’s Fair and to Henry, her first real friend. The Pavilion of Magic isn’t open to everyone–but its denizen, Mr. Magister, assures Eva and Henry that she are welcome to stay as long as they like.

Of course it isn’t that simple. The scars of the Great Fire are still a deep part of Chicago, changing those who have lived there forever in ways that Eva struggles to understand. And how can something that seems magical–that seems to replicate the home she never had–be anything but a delight? Well, you’ve all read YA fantasy before. I bet you have some ideas of how.

This book was a smooth read but in some ways very structurally weird. The climax depended on Eva’s character insights into people she (and we) had never met, and the ultimate answer seems to be “don’t trust things that seem magical and bright.” I appreciated that character sacrifices were not undone by the narrative, but at the same time, “don’t look for anything magical in the world, it’s all bad” is…not actually a message I find very resonant. Savit has done a lot of research on the period but also uses magic to handwave a lot of socially inconvenient things. For me it was one of those books that’s better to be in the middle of reading than to consider when I finished.

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