Scoop Review of Books

On the Run

Book Review
Circus Hearts 1: All The Little Bones by Ellie Marney (Bearded Lady Press, 2018)
Reviewed by Rachel Stedman

circuis-hearts_coverI’ve been aware of Ellie Marney for some time. Based in Australia, Marney straddles the difficult divide of traditional and independent publishing. She’s won the Scarlet Stiletto Award for short crime writing in 2010 and has been shortlisted for a number of prestigious Australian awards, including the Gold Inky Award. Some of her works are published by Allen and Unwin or HarperCollins; others she publishes herself through her own imprint, Bearded Lady Press. Marney also helped spearhead the awesome #LoveOzYA movement – yes, the hashtag is obligatory – so when I saw she had a new book coming out, I was dead keen to try it.

Plus, her new book is about circuses, and what’s not to love in a circus?

Okay, so here’s a bit about All the Little Bones.

Seventeen year old Sorsha Neary and her friend Colm MacKay are on the run. Escaping from a crime Sorsha never meant to commit, they’re travelling south to Klatsch’s Karnival. Sorsha is a trapeze artist and Colm’s a trainee strongman, so with luck the carnival will have enough room for both of them. But the question for Sorsha and Colm isn’t if the police will catch them – it’s when…

All The Little Bones is the first in the three-part series Circus Hearts. The second in the series, All Fall Down, has just been released. The third will be coming soon, so if you’ve got a voracious teen reader, this series is a perfect read for them.

All the Little Bones is a fast-paced, tightly-written thriller. Marney uses YA tropes like the YA Hero (check out @broodingYAhero on twitter if you want a laugh) and so at times I could anticipate where the narrative was going. But although the story doesn’t stray far from accepted YA conventions, the plot is so tightly constructed that I absolutely had to keep on reading.

There are some things that could be improved – for example, I’d really like to know which city Klatcsh’s Karnival lives in. Not so I can visit it, because I’m fairly sure the carnival itself is fictional, but I do think a contemporary story requires a contemporary setting. And although the dialogue (and the vast driving distances) leads me to assume the story takes place in Australia, I don’t recall the book explicitly stating this.

Marney’s side characters are particularly well-drawn, all with their own quirks and motivations, like Ren, Sorsha’s roommate, who’s studying sports therapy for a life after contortionism. BUT the best thing about this story – probably the whole series – is the setting. I loved finding out about the real-life circus and learning about the behind-the-scene activities. 

This fast-paced, exciting story is perfect for all YA readers, and I’d especially recommend it for older readers of Stacey Gregg and for older YA readers who prefer books set in the real world. 

Purchase options:
You can find the series online via the usual platforms (Amazon, ibooks, Nook etc). Hard copies can be purchased through Stoneman’s Bookroom at
All three books in the series will be available to order before the end of the month from Ingram Spark/Lightning Source. Booksellers will be able to order direct from Lightning Source, libraries will be able to order from library suppliers (PeterPal, DLS, James Bennett, Westbooks etc), and readers can order through Booktopia and other online retailers. Discounts are available for libraries and booksellers.”