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Theatre of Marvels

A novel by

Behind the spectacle, there are always secrets.

Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. The young, mixed-race actress Zillah is headlining tonight as “The Great Amazonia, a Savage Queen from Darkest Africa.” Zillah, an orphan from the slums of Victorian London, knows that her rise to stardom is her ticket to freedom and, she hopes, to high society. The absurd caricature of her role, along with the leers of the drunken audience, are simply the price she’s willing to pay.

Zillah’s late mother made her promise to make a better life for herself, and now she’s on the verge of attaining everything she’s ever dreamed of. But when Crillick’s newest Black actress suddenly disappears, Zillah is haunted by worry—can she risk her own neck to save this troubled stranger?

A reckless pursuit of the truth takes Zillah into the underbelly of the city—from gaslit streets to the sumptuous parlors of Mayfair—as she seeks help from both rich admirers of the Great Amazonia and notorious criminals from her past, and where she will quickly find herself torn between two powerful worlds.

A stunning and deliciously immersive debut, Lianne Dillsworth’s Theatre of Marvels is a riveting journey across Victorian London and an unforgettable tale of race, identity and a woman��s reclamation of her fate.

Genre: Historical Mystery

Praise for this book

"Theatre of Marvels is a compelling, big-hearted story that whips the reader along, and I loved seeing Victorian London through the eyes of its strong female protagonist." - Rosie Andrews

"A startling, original and utterly compelling novel which subtly navigates the core issues of race, gender and class." - Mary Chamberlain

"A story that shines a spotlight into the shadows of the 19th century, while also exploring very relevant themes of identity. So fantastic to read a novel that centres POC in the Victorian era. Loved it!" - Saara El-Arifi

"Richly evocative and glittering with atmosphere, this tale of ambition and identity had me gripped from start to finish." - Stacey Halls

"A tale steeped in Victorian London, I fell in love with Zillah and her theatre world. I was gripped from the opening pages - highly recommended for anyone who loves mystery, drama and Victorian London." - Louise Hare

"Theatre of Marvels depicts Victorian London in rich, vivid detail that springs into life. Zillah, the beating heart of the novel, is both brave and compassionate. I was rooting for her from the first page to the last." - Elizabeth Lee

"Thrilling, eye-opening and absorbing." - Lizzie Pook

"A dazzling tale of self-discovery with a cast of vivid characters, I loved it." - Laura Purcell

"Fresh, original and full of atmosphere - a compelling story with a heroine I'll remember for a long time." - Frances Quinn

"Loved Lianne Dillsworth's Theatre of Marvels. A gripping story about identity and belonging with a strong sense of place. Can't wait for everybody to meet Zillah who is such strong and nuanced heroine." - Laure Van Rensburg

"Theatre of Marvels is a fascinating, empowering story of a young woman's search for identity and justice in Victorian London, a world which Lianne Dillsworth evokes so richly." - Jennifer Saint

"Zillah is a brilliant character who leads us through a Victorian London little spoken of, making for an illuminating, page-turning tale of self-actualisation. Loved it." - Kate Sawyer

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