Reviews /

The Circle Breakers

Authored by Patience Agbabi
Published by Canongate Books

The Circle Breakers is the third in the Leap Cycle series and follows the adventures of Elle and her friends, known as The Infinites, as they go about solving the mystery of who is trying to take over Millenia’s criminal gang, The Vicious Circle.

The Infinites are a group of Leaplings with The Gift, people born on the 29th of February with the ability to travel through time. Unfortunately, The Vicious Circle also have the same abilities which they use to cause difficulty, spread misinformation and manipulate society. Unlike The Infinites, who work together when faced with adversity, The Vicious Circle is beset by suspicion and mistrust, which is why, when he starts receiving mysterious notes threatening to reveal the existence of Leaplings to the media, Vicious Circle Elder The Grandfather contacts Elle and her friends to find the culprit. As they move back and forth through time following the clues found in the letters, Elle is forced to evaluate relationships and question what she knows about those closest to her.

Woven throughout the narrative are a range of themes and issues, such as neurodivergence, cultural difference, family and bereavement; in fact, there are so many different themes explored that it can sometimes feel overwhelming for the reader. There is a sense throughout that the author takes full responsibility for the accuracy of representation, for example Elle is autistic, as is her friend Big Ben, and the author spends time describing the different ways each experiences life due to their uniqueness. The same care is taken over character descriptions and cultural activity. However, as this is the third book in the series, there are some aspects more easily understood if the previous stories have been read, but the author recognises some readers might be coming to the series out of sequence and need a certain level of detail to fully understand the diversity of people, cultures and history. There are some difficult themes, such as the death of a close relative, but the sensitive way it is handled and the joyful celebration of life described during the funeral wake can support more positive discussions around life and death.

This is a book for 11+ which would work well as a class reader, particularly due to the extended vocabulary used throughout – be ready with the definition for the word ‘bissextile’ as it is not immediately clear from the text!