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The Story of a Beautiful Albino - an Editorial Review of "Barnum's Angel"

Book Blurb:

To some, Lily was just a beautiful little girl. To others, she was a freakish albino who ate live chickens in a freak show. Charles Darwin called her his impossible girl and tried in vain to classify her. P. T. Barnum called her his angel and tried to take advantage of her.

But the creature Barnum thought to turn into a money-making feature attraction is neither girl nor angel. She is something other, a species of unimaginable abilities, with the power to destroy—or save —our world. The power is hers alone, but only the strange blood coursing through her veins will decide when and how to unleash a power she struggles every day to control.

From the cold, barren shores of Tierra del Fuego and the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle to the bustling crowds of Victorian London, Lily's story—and her quest—unfolds in a thrilling historical fantasy for all ages from award-winning author Len Boswell.

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Author Bio:

Len Boswell is the author of eighteen books, most notably his Simon Grave Mysteries, an award-winning series featuring the comic exploits of "almost handsome" Detective Simon Grave and his "nearly invisible" partner, Sergeant Barry Blunt. His writing has been compared to the writings of Janet Evanovich, Rich Leder, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut, but he'd like to think his cozy comedic mysteries are something new, blending mystery, humor, and satire in the mythical seaside town of Crab Cove in the not-too-distant 2050s. Yes, there are robots, and fun!

He is also the author of two fantasy series: The Chronicles of Randall (YA fantasy) and The Pale Chronicles (historical fantasy)

He lives in the mountains of West Virginia with his wife, Ruth, and their two dogs: Cinder and Daisy, one a speedy rat terrier, the other a paper-shredding Beagle.

WINNER: 2018 PenCraft Award for Literary Excellence (A Grave Misunderstanding)

WINNER: 2019 PenCraft Award for Literary Excellence (Simon Grave and the Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime)

FINALIST: 2018 American Fiction Awards (A Grave Misunderstanding)

FINALIST: 2019 American Fiction Awards (Simon Grave and the Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime

FINALIST: 2020 American Fiction Awards (Simon Grave and the Drone of the Basque Orvilles)

FINALIST 2022 American Fiction Awards (LIQ: The Quality of Mercy)

FINALIST 2022 American Fiction Awards (The Cave of the Six Arrows)

TWITTER: @simonsilverback

Editorial Review:

The girl was tall for a ten-year-old, with skin as white as white can be and long flowing hair that sparkled pale in the morning light. Her eyes seemed purplish red like any other albino, and she had a sweet face, angelic to Barnum’s eye. With a somewhat exotic look, almost Polynesian. Maybe a hint of Chinese around the eyes. The floor-length white gown he had provided was a perfect fit.

“Do her hair be right, sir? When I shows her, I hide that white hair under a black wig. Makes her menacing like.”

“Oh, god no,” said Barnum.

“What do you not understand about the concept of an angel? Her hair must be white.”

Partly shrugged. “Just a thought, sir. It be your show—if we can come to some agreement.”


Len Boswell introduces readers to an enthralling blend of history and fantasy in "Barnum's Angel". Boswell's meticulous approach to storytelling crafts a mesmerizing world that takes readers on a journey filled with wonder, humanity, and the unimaginable. The unique perspective of merging real historical figures with a fantastical plot places this novel in its own esteemed category.

The novel starts powerfully, pulling readers immediately into Barnum and Lily’s world. This intriguing start sets the stage for the blend of awe and discrimination Lily faces.

The compelling storyline drew me in immediately, anxious to see what it – and Lily – was all about. From the first pages, readers are introduced to Lily, an exceptional being, neither fully human nor divine. As Boswell writes, “To some, Lily was just a beautiful little girl. To others, she was a freakish albino who ate live chickens in a freak show.” This compelling dichotomy of public perception versus personal reality establishes a strong emotional connection, making it difficult to put the book down.


Port Famine, Strait of Magellan, February 2, 1834.

FitzRoy pushed back in his chair and stood, placing both hands on the table and leaning across it to loom over Darwin. He was a man of slight build, with a narrow, almond-shaped face made remarkable by a thin, aquiline nose and a wisp of a moustache seemingly brushed in over thin, almost feminine lips. His hair was dark brown and matted down from humidity and the hours he had spent today in his bicorn hat. He had doffed the hat and taken off his rain cape and “undress” uniform coat before the meal, and now stood before Darwin in his white vest and trousers. The overall effect was an aspect of competence, even arrogance, an aristocratic look he used to great effect as a leader of men. A man of quick, sometimes uncontrollable temper, he could by posture and gesture alone impose his will on anyone.

“I don’t know what you have heard, sir, or from whom, but the answer to your question is quite simple. Mr. Stokes was a fine officer but given to melancholy and dark moods, as many men are in these gloomy waters. He shot himself in the head, in this very port, some years ago, lingering for many days before his unfortunate death.”

The story pulls you from one moment to the next, hanging on every word. The book is impeccably edited, and its formatting ensures easy and pleasurable reading, and I never felt pulled out of the story due to mistakes or typos. The clear and smooth transitions between scenes and alternating chapters only add to the story's engaging nature. Technically speaking, it’s one of the smoothest and most polished books I’ve read this year.

Some of the best strengths of this book, however, lie, in the character development. Lily's journey from a freak show attraction to a subject of Darwin's intense study is not just physical, but also deeply emotional. As the novel unfolds, the readers see her blossom, wrestling with her unique powers and finding her place in the world. Not to forget the deeply complex nature of figures like P.T. Barnum and Charles Darwin, who come alive through their interactions with Lily.

The baroness herself and the twenty or so guests were all dressed to fit the room. One guest stood out, though, a man of dark copper complexion, an African surely, dressed as his culture dictated: a large loose robe of thick cotton cloth draped in folds around his body; a waistcloth encircling his loins; and wide trousers that ended just above his knees. A small sword hung menacingly at his side.

To Barnum’s eye, he would make a worthy attraction, and Barnum wondered whether the man had been brought to the mansion for this very purpose. But such was not the case. The baroness was quick to introduce all the lords and ladies in attendance, and finally came to the African.

Boswell skillfully integrates various real and fictitious aspects while keeping a tight hold on the novel's continuity. The environment is constant and believable, from the enigmatic happenings aboard the H.M.S. Beagle to the busy streets of Victorian London.

Without giving too much away, the book's ending is a masterful fusion of anticipation and resolve that leaves us eager for the next chapter while bringing the current story to a satisfying conclusion. Although I thought this particular chapter of the tale was over, I found myself wanting more.

Looking back over this book, one of the best parts was how seamlessly the author integrates fantasy into historical reality. This is undoubtedly no easy task, but Boswell pulls it off so well. The inclusion of well-known historical figures adds a layer of authenticity, while the fantastical elements bring out charm and magic.

As Boswell puts it, "The historically accurate depiction of the scenes, senses, and civilian population of Victorian London pulls the reader into the plot." His mastery of the literary craft is evident from such detailed details.

Readers are kept interested in Lily's trip by the book's structure and its strategically placed twists and turns. The various character arcs of the characters, notably Lily's, seamlessly mesh with the main plot, building to a crescendo that is both dramatic and moving.

The historical fantasy masterwork "Barnum's Angel" is exceptional. A work by Len Boswell that brilliantly explores the deeper themes of acceptance and the genuine nature of people is both engrossing and thought-provoking. This novel is a monument to Boswell's skill as a storyteller, with likable characters, a captivating plot, and an absolutely original blend of reality and fantasy. It's a book that fans of fantasy and history should both read.


“Barnum's Angel” by Len Boswell receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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