The summer of 1989 brought terror to the town of Shadows Creek, Florida, in the form of a massacre at the local carnival, Cirque Berserk. One fateful night, a group of teens killed a dozen people then disappeared into thin air. No one knows why they did it, where they went, or even how many of them there were, but legend has it they still roam the abandoned carnival, looking for blood to spill.
Thirty years later, best friends Sam and Rochelle are in the midst of a boring senior trip when they learn about the infamous Cirque Berserk. Seeking one last adventure, they and their friends journey to the nearby Shadows Creek to see if the urban legends about Cirque Berserk are true. But waiting for them beyond the carnival gates is a night of brutality, bloodshed, and betrayal.
Will they make they make it out alive, or will the carnival’s past demons extinguish their futures?
- Title: Cirque Berserk
- Series: Rewind-or-Die, Book 4
- Author: Jessica Guess
- Publisher: Unnerving
- ISBN: 1989206360
- Publication Date: February 12, 2020
- Content Warnings: domestic violence
When I tell you that I devoured this book, I mean I devoured it. I raced through the pages, pausing only to laugh at a particularly hilarious line or to marvel at Jessica Guess’s ability to shatter genre tropes in unique and immensely satisfying ways. She especially takes aim at the “Black best friend” trope, proving that we need more Black characters in ALL horror roles: Final Girl, villain, and everything in between.
Cirque Berserk takes some of my favorite classic horror tropes—haunted carnivals and ’80s slashers, with all the subtropes that go along with them—and turns them into a treatise on the power of found families, the joy of pop culture, and the lack of representation in horror fiction. It’s also a hell of a fun ride, with plenty of blood and viscera and surprises to keep you racing toward the end as quickly as I did.
Guess is a nimble storyteller, rapidly alternating timelines and points of view without ever losing focus on the individual characters or the enthralling plot. Poking fun at the established Slasher Rules (especially who “deserves” to be a Final Girl and the danger of the dorky “nice guy”), Guess finds new ways to subvert the beloved subgenre and delivers plenty of twists and gore to satisfy fans. Cirque Berserk is both a love letter to the horror genre and a call for it to be better, wrapped up in a wickedly fun slasher story. I can’t wait to see what Jessica Guess does next, and I’m definitely checking out the rest of the Rewind-or-Die series as well.
If you know who the cover artist is, please let me know! I give this book 5 out of 5 coffins.