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The seven books in the series

Stage School is a British middle grade book series by Lyn Gardner, revolving around tween Olivia Marvell, her younger sister Eel and her friends at her grandmother's Swan Academy of Theatre and Dance.

Olivia, a Circus Brat, returns to London with her sister and widowed father. The Marvells are left penniless after patriarch Jack Marvell suffers a Career-Ending Injury, and the girls must live with their maternal grandmother Alicia Swan, the owner of a prestigious stage school for children aged 7-16. Olivia is not at all thrilled to drop tightrope-walking and learn the "proper" performing arts, since, unlike her sister, a gifted dancer, she has no West End-worthy talents. Can the school's Black Sheep find her place at the Swan, and will Tightrope Walking help her in this endeavour?

The series is comprised of seven books:

Olivia's First Term
Olivia Flies High
Olivia and the Movie Stars
Olivia's Enchanted Summer
Olivia's Winter Wonderland
Olivia and the Great Escape
Olivia's Curtain Call

The series displays examples of the following tropes:

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     Olivia's First Term 
After renowned circus performer Jack Marvell loses all of his money and is forced to disband the circus, he takes his young daughters Olivia and Eel to his estranged mother-in-law, the owner of the prestigious Swan Academy of Theatre and Dance, in the hopes that she can provide them with a home and an education while he tries to regain the family fortunes. Thus, Circus Brat Olivia and her dancing little sister Eel end up enrolled in a stage school. Can Olivia fit in?

  • Abandoned Area: The building next to the school is this. It briefly becomes plot-relevant in the second half of the book.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Olivia calls Georgia out on letting Katie push her around and bully other people without speaking up against the Alpha Bitch.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Eel, especially when she introduces herself with her full name.
  • Alliterative Name: One of the rehearsal spaces at The Swan is called The Sondheim Space, after Stephen Sondheim, an alliterative-named creator himself.
  • Alone in a Crowd: During assembly towards the middle of the book, Alicia Swan observes that Olivia is 'standing close to the rest of her form and yet somehow completely detached from them'.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Olivia sometimes comes off as this to Eel.
  • Alpha Bitch: Katie Wilkes-Cox. In keeping with her father's teachings, she treats her classmates as rivals and would do anything to survive in the 'cut-throat' show-business. She is certainly not above physically injuring other children to get a solo, and threatens Georgia and Olivia on a daily basis.
  • Anti-Nepotism: Despite being the Marvell sisters' grandmother, Headmistress Alicia Swan never gives them any special treatment based on their family connection.
    • Averted with the fact that the girls skip the long audition process, and only Eel has demonstrated remarkable talent before being accepted into the Swan, which is notorious for its tough and rigorous auditions.
  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: Georgia is reluctantly a part of Katie's posse, not being brave enough to speak against her - until the very end, that is. In the end, she finally reveals how Katie has been threatening her and what she's done to others.
  • Bad Mood as an Excuse: Olivia is often shown taking her frustration with the Swan out on Eel or her grandmother. She immediately regrets lashing out, though.
  • Berserk Button: Olivia gets upset whenever anyone (usually her grandmother) insults high-wire walking.
  • Best Friend: Olivia and Tom become this after he asks her to teach him tightrope walking and the two become a double act.
  • Big Secret: Olivia has been practising her tightrope walking in secret, which makes her look suspicious when precious items are continuously stolen from the practice room windowsill.
  • Book Dumb: Katie struggles academically, but is one of the most artistically gifted pupils at the Swan.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Well, not lazy, but Olivia just refuses to try acting, seeing it as an extension of lying. When she tries, she is brilliant at it, even being compared to her mother, who was an exceptional Shakespearean actress.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Pre-series, Jack manages to save his younger daughter from being hit by a car, but suffers an injury himself. He recovers physically, but not mentally, and no longer has the nerve to perform his tightrope act. Thanks to Olivia, he recovers by the end of the book and returns to his craft.
    • Alicia Swan, too, had her career cut short due to arthritis.
  • Catch the Conscience: Katie uses this trope to manipulate Georgia into doing what she tells her.
  • Cheerful Child: Eel is constantly dancing and jumping around in excitement, and is absolutely thrilled to be at the Swan.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Olivia's tightrope skills come in handy on two occasions in the second half of the book.
  • Circus Brat: Olivia and her sister Eel grow up in the circus, since both their parents are circus performers. At first they help out by selling tickets and programmes and doing small acrobatic tricks, but Olivia is later upgraded to a major part of the show as a tightrope acrobat.
  • Class Clown: Tom and William are a duo of class clowns, constantly cracking jokes and drawing attention, even during assembly, when they really shouldn't.
  • Contortionist: The first book mentions there was one at Jack Marvell's circus.
  • Cool School: Well, not according to Olivia, but the Swan is definitely presented as this, with only the morning classes being traditional academia, and the afternoon classes being dedicated to performing arts, with students having the ability to choose the subjects they take.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Shaw, the acting teacher, goes out of his way to make sure Olivia doesn't fail his class, and takes her to see a production of Romeo and Juliet in an attempt to wake her interest in acting. He even gives her the book as a gift after the show. Also, there is a minor Running Gag where he keeps providing a crying Olivia with tissues.
  • Cram School: Despite being a Cool School, the Swan academy is also this, with a very demanding academic and vocational curriculum. Academic achievement is also taken into account when pupils are chosen for school shows as well as professional auditions.
  • Crossing the Burnt Bridge: Alicia Swan is upset with her son-in-law Jack for "stealing away" her daughter from her passion, acting. She even blames him for her passing. When they last spoke, she said she never wants to see him again. Now, Jack needs help providing for his daughters, and the two adults need to bury the hatchet in order to do right by the girls.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: An accident in the past broke Jack's spirit, causing him to give up tightrope walking for a long time.
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Georgia's mum is always very busy at work and rarely ever comes to Georgia's shows, which upsets her daughter greatly.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tom. William also has his moments.
    Katie: When will you ever grow up?
    Wiliam: When he's had a few more birthdays.
  • Determinator: Toni Swan was this, according to Mr. Sebastian Shaw.
  • Disappeared Dad: Georgia's father is never seen nor mentioned.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Pablo appears episodically in this book before taking on a more important role in the next.
  • Elevator School: The Swan is this, accepting pupils from 7 to 16 years old.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Katie dubs Olivia 'Liver' and Tom 'Ginger' because of his hair colour.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When we first see them, Olivia is being serious and obstinate, and Eel is practically dancing through the streets.
  • Expy: Of Malory Towers. Olivia is Darrell, Katie is Gwendolyn and Georgia is Sally.
  • Family Business: The circus is this for the Marvells. Jack is the owner and tightrope performer, both his daughters take part in the shows, and their mother Toni abandoned her acting career to join Jack in the circus as well.
  • First Day from Hell: Olivia manages to get herself involved in school drama before the term has even begun, by witnessing Katie pushing Georgia and breaking her ankle in order to take her place in the newbies concert.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: At first, Eel and Olivia respectively. Later on, they begin to gravitate towards the opposite.
  • Frame-Up: Mid-book, it becomes clear that somebody has been stealing the jewellery that the pupils put on the windowsill during dancing class. Katie frames Olivia for it. It turns out a bird nesting on the neighbouring building is the thief.
  • Freudian Excuse: Sure, Katie is an awful person, but it takes one look at her parents (well, her father especially, since her mother is only mentioned in passing) to see why she is the way she is.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: Alicia Swan can be either, depending on the situation.
  • The Gift: Eel is a naturally gifted dancer. By the end of the book, she is also Talented, but Trained.
  • Girl Posse: As per the requirements of the trope, Alpha Bitch Katie is constantly surrounded by a swarm of girls, one of whom would rather have nothing to do with her.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: Jack leaves Olivia and Eel with their estranged grandmother in order to go off and try to regain 'the family fortunes'.
  • Gotta Pass the Class: Katie struggles to get her grades up when she is barred from participating in the Children's Royal Spectacular.
  • Grade Skipper: Eel, who is naturally talented at dancing, is at placed in Beginner Ballet along with Olivia, but quickly moves up two grades because of her great progress. Olivia, on the other hand, has no such luck.
  • Grew a Spine: Georgia has been pushed around by Katie for quite some time, only to stand up to her at the end of the book, finally mustering up the courage to do so.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Georgia is a blonde and definitely has a heart of gold, becoming one of Olivia's first friends.
  • Happy Ending: As can be expected from a middle grade book, by the end all the heroes get their happy ending in one way or another. Katie, the antagonist, not so much...
  • His Story Repeats Itself: In the climax of the book, what happens to Jack and Olivia is oddly reminiscent of a piece of their backstory.
  • Hot-Blooded: Olivia, big time. She is equally passionate for circus and disdainful towards the Swan and the performing arts, which causes her to lash out at her loved ones quite often.
  • I Can't Dance: Olivia is a surprisingly bad dancer for a talented tightrope walker. This is also lampshaded by Tom, who admits to not having believed she was good at tightrope walking with how bad of a dancer she is.
    Olivia: I can't dance. I won't dance.
  • Innocent Beta Bitch: Georgia is reluctant to be a part of Katie's gang, but puts up with her because, as established early on, she desperately wants to be popular.
  • Insecure Protagonist, Arrogant Antagonist: Olivia and Katie respectively.
  • Instant Fan Club: After she is seen highwire-walking, Olivia instantly gets one formed of pupils who want to learn the craft from her.
  • Jerkass: Mr. Wilkes-Cox, Katie's father. He is first introduced spluttering mud all over the Marvells, then tells his daughter to treat her classmates as rivals, not friends, and at the end tries to bribe the headmistress into keeping his daughter, who doesn't fall too far from the tree, in the school after she has been caught in the wrong.
  • Jobless Parent Drama: The plot is induced by the fact that Jack Marvell is unemployed and penniless and has no means of providing for his family.
  • Master Actor: Katie Wilkes-Cox thinks she is this. Operating word: thinks.
  • Meaningful Name: Well, nickname. Eel acquired her nickname as a baby for being 'a wriggly little thing, never still for a minute'.
  • Missing Mum: Antonia 'Toni' Swan-Marvell passed away when Olivia was 5 and Eel was just a baby.
  • "Near and Dear" Baby Naming: Eel is named after her grandmother, Alicia Swan. Nobody calls her Alicia, though.
  • New Transfer Student: Eel and Olivia are this at the Swan academy.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Eel's full name is Alicia Rosalind Ophelia Marvell, but nobody ever calls her Alicia.
    • The Marvell's mother Toni is actually named Antonia, but she is only referred to as such once.
  • Predatory Business: This is how Mr. Wilkes-Cox views show-business.
  • Scholarship Student: Georgia is offered a scholarship mid-book because her mother struggles to pay the tuition fees.
  • School Idol: Older student Abbie Cardew is one of the rising stars of the school and admired by most everyone at school.
  • School of No Studying: Strongly averted with the Swan. Academic achievement is just as important as achievement in vocational classes, and that is very important.
  • School Play: The pupils put on the so-called 'newbie concert' before the first day of term to welcome the new pupils into the school.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Mr. Wilkes-Cox' attitude towards everything in life. When his daughter Katie is caught in the wrong and threatened with expulsion, he first threatens to sue the school, then outright attempts to bribe the headmistress - unsuccessfully.
  • Secret-Keeper: Eel and Tom keep Olivia's secret that she's secretly practising her tightrope walking in a rarely used practice room.
  • Shout-Out: The book mentions a variety of Shakespeare's plays (such as Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Macbeth, Hamlet, etc.) and musical theatre classics (such as Wicked, The Sound of Music, Oliver!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Secret Garden, etc.)
    • Mary Poppins gets a shout-out when Eel describes Abbie as 'practically perfect in every way'.
    • The Marvell sisters' names are Olivia Juliet Viola Marvell and Alicia Rosalind Ophelia Marvell.
    • Probably unintentional, but Olivia's parents' backstory is reminiscent of The Acrobat and the Escapist from Matilda.
    • Again, probably unintentional, since the above mentioned musical is not referenced once in the book, but the 'Miracle' sequence is a good description of how the Wilkes-Cox family treat their daughter Katie.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Olivia is often sulky and bad-tempered, or serious at best, while Eel is perpetually cheerful and excited.
  • Spoiled Brat: Katie is quickly established as this in her very first scene. Her parents think she is the best and are ready to literally buy her starring roles and solos, and pay her way out of punishment and expulsion. This causes her to be an entitled brat and treat everyone else like rubbish.
  • Starving Student: Georgia is afraid she might have to leave the school as her mother struggles with paying for her tuition.
  • Successful Sibling Syndrome: During their first term at the Swan, Olivia fails to display any special talent in the performing arts, being particularly helpless at dance, while this is precisely where her younger sister Eel shines. Olivia is still taking beginner ballet by the end of the term, while Eel promptly moves two grades up.
  • Tagalong Kid: While she has friends of her own, Eel sometimes hangs out with her 5-years-older sister Olivia and her friends, especially at the end of the book.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: Georgia's mother would say that to her boss, were it not for the fact that she is so poor, she can't pay her daughter's tuition fee at the Swan.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Katie is the Technician to Georgia's performer, as acknowledged by Katie herself in her POV.
  • Tell Me About My Mother: Olivia desperately wants to know more about her late mother, but it pains Jack too much to talk about her.
  • Tightrope Walking: Olivia and Jack's speciality.
  • Token Rich Student: Katie Wilkes-Cox comes from a very rich family and has no qualms bragging about her parents' wealth.
  • Two-Teacher School: The only three named teachers are Mr. Shaw, the acting teacher, Miss Hanbury, the voice teacher, and the maths teacher.
  • You Are Not Alone: When Olivia is framed by Katie, everyone is turned against her - everyone but Tom and Georgia.
  • You Remind Me of X: Mr. Shaw tells Olivia she reminds him of her mother, whom he also taught.

     Olivia Flies High 
When her new best friends Tom and Georgia are cast in a West End musical, Olivia feels abandoned and has a major falling-out with them. With a scheming Katie Wilkes-Cox back on the scene, will she manage to make things right before it's too late?

  • A Day in the Limelight: Tom is promoted to protagonist in this book after being a secondary character for the entirety of book 1.
  • Absence of Evidence: When Tom bumps into the little girl playing Gretl causing her to break her leg, he is accused of having sabotaged her deliberately. Katie testifies to this. There are no other witnesses and it's his word against hers.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Beside Jack calling Olivia 'chick', there is also Pablo who refers to the Swan pupils as 'ducklings'.
  • Alliterative Name: The director of a production of The Sound of Music that Georgia and Tom are auditioning for is called Jon James.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: While in rehearsal for The Sound of Music, Georgia remembers a story about an actress whose parents called out to her during a performance, and hopes her own mother will be better behaved when she comes to see her in the show.
  • Ascended Extra: While he wasn't exactly an extra to begin with, Tom's role is greatly expanded in this book compared to the previous one.
  • Bad Mood as an Excuse: As early as chapter 2, Olivia lashes out at Georgia and Tom for choosing the West End production of The Sound of Music instead of Romeo and Juliet on the High-Wire, which sets off the plot of her trying to get them back as her best friends.
  • Black Sheep: Even after a term at the Swan, Olivia is still this to many of the pupils because of her natural inclination towards circus instead of singing, dancing or acting.
  • Bystander Syndrome: As Katie hangs over the edge of the theatre roof towards the end of the book, bystanders stare helplessly at her, some even filming the happening on their phones.
  • Catchphrase: 'Magnificent' for Pablo Catalano.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When she first gets a mobile phone, Eel mentions it can record conversations. This comes in handy much later on for an Engineered Public Confession.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Eel, who has been practising the role with Georgia and dreaming of performing in the musical one day, gets her chance to play Gretl von Trapp when the original actress breaks her leg right before the performance courtesy of Katie.
  • Chekhov's Skill: A group of pupils has spent all term learning to build a castell, a human pyramid. In chapter 19, this skill becomes crucial for them to help Tom hit his first cue in The Sound of Music.
    • Like in the first book, high-wire walking comes in handy, this time to save Katie from a fatal fall.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Olivia has this sort of attitude towards Tom, causing her to lash out at him when he chooses The Sound of Music over their double act.
  • Continuity Nod: The next-door abandoned building which is briefly plot-relevant in the first book, is now considered by Alicia for an expansion of the school, and she saves up money to buy it.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Eel has been practising Gretl's role with Georgia in the hope of playing it in the West End one day. Then director Jon James happens to see her perform it outside the theatre. Come opening night, all three actresses cast as Gretl are out sick. Now guess who happens to be in the audience...
  • Darker and Edgier: This book is much more so compared to its predecessor, what with high stakes, serious injuries, and Olivia's dad going missing in an alleged plane crash.
  • Darkest Hour: Comes surprisingly early into the book, when Olivia has had a falling out with her best friend Tom, is still treated like an outsider for favouring circus over theatre, and even her dad is scolding her.
    • There is an even darker moment towards the end of the book, with Tom and Olivia still not quite made up, and Olivia has just fallen from the trapeze and is badly injured. By the end of the chapter, it is unclear if she will ever walk again. And then it becomes clear that Jack's plane has gone missing...
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Singing-dancing twins Cosmo and Cosima Wood, titular characters in the next book, are first mentioned here.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: While waiting for her friends outside a cloakroom, Olivia overhears Tom speak mockingly about high-wire walking after their falling out a little earlier. This triggers her Berserk Button. Too bad she doesn't hear him immediately take those words back.
  • Foreshadowing: Alicia makes Olivia promise not to go on the trapeze without Pablo's supervision. The only time she does results in a potentially Career-Ending Injury.
  • Funny Foreigner: Pablo Catalano, the new circus skills teacher and Jack's friend and colleague, constantly mixes up words and expressions, such as calling the Swan 'the Duck academy'.
  • Groupie: The little girls playing Marta and Gretl in The Sound of Music think Katie is really pretty and follow her around, much to Tom's dismay.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: True to her characterisation from book 1, Olivia lashes out at Tom for choosing a West End job over their high-wire double act.
  • Happily Ever Before: The previous book has ended on a high note, only for Olivia to fall out with her best friends and become a glowering loner once again.
  • Hot for Teacher: A lot of girls seem to have turned up for circus classes because they have a crush on the teacher, Pablo.
  • Humble Pie: Lampshaded by Tom in regards to Katie, who has not been humbled by her expulsion from the Swan.
    • By the end of the book, she's a lot more humbled and thoroughly apologises to Olivia and Tom for everything she's done to them.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: As part of her plan to take revenge on Olivia and Tom, whom she blames for her expulsion from The Swan, Katie gets her hands on Tom's phone and erases Olivia's apologetic text message, replacing it with a hateful one from her own new phone.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: This is what gives away that the hateful text Tom has received isn't really from Olivia - it is signed 'Olivia', but their friends know that, to Tom, she has always been just Liv.
  • It's All About Me: Katie thinks herself above the other kids involved in The Sound of Music and is bored when watching others rehearse, wishing the focus were on her instead.
  • Kissed Keepsake: When a Swan alum and present-day star stage actor kisses Eel's hand, she says she's never washing it again.
  • Locked Up and Left Behind: Happens to Tom during Sound of Music rehearsals in chapter 8.
    • And then it happens again on a show night in chapter 18.
  • Meaningful Name: The Wood twins' acting befits their last name according to Alicia.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: As the Swans first attempt to form a human pyramid, Kasha '[says] something rude under his breath' while the third row is climbing up.
  • Nepotism: Being the producer's niece, the girl playing Louisa in The Sound of Music production Tom and Georgia are in gets special treatment. And then we find out she's none other than Katie Wilkes-Cox
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Tom receives the hateful text message "from Olivia" and shows it to Georgia and Aeysha, they all note how it doesn't sound like her at all and are worried about their (at the time former) friend.
  • Put on a Bus: Alicia Swan leaves the academy in the hands of Mr. Sebastian Shaw while she's off working on a Hollywood movie with the Wood twins. She is back by chapter 11, though.
  • The Scottish Trope: The Scottish Play is mentioned verbatim in chapter 19 as another in-universe example of a Troubled Production.
  • Shout-Out: Just like the first book, there are a number of shout-outs to all kinds of theatre productions. The Sound of Music is a major part of the plot. Romeo and Juliet is fairly important, too. Also mentioned are Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker and Oliver!.
  • Troubled Production: In-universe, The Sound of Music seems to be this. A lots of the children have come down with different illnesses, and Tom is a complete wreck thanks to Katie. On press night, the last remaining Gretl literally breaks a leg and there is no one to replace her.
  • The Unapologetic: Olivia immediately feels bad for lashing out at Tom and Georgia, but is too proud to apologise and it takes her quite some time.
     Olivia and the Movie Stars 
A pair of famous twins arrive from Hollywood to star in a West End production of Peter Pan along with their equally famous father. They turn out to be different from Olivia's expectations, not completely for the best. On top of this, the noise coming from the construction next to the Swan disrupts everybody's lives, and one of the twin stars is being sabotaged. Can Olivia figure out the mysteries around her?
  • Acting for Two: In universe, as is traditionally done with these two parts, Jasper Wood is double-cast in Peter Pan as Mr Darling and Captain Hook.
  • Adam Westing: Cosmo and Cosima Wood star in their own TV show where they act as an exaggerated version of themselves.
  • Broken Pedestal: When Olivia meets the famous Wood twins in person, she discovers they are not at all like the scripted versions of themselves which they portray in their TV series.
  • Brutal Honesty/ Armor-Piercing Question: In her typical straightforward fashion, Eel unabashedly asks the twins how they can know if they're really any good at acting and not just getting roles because of their fame and their father's status.
  • Callback: When Olivia resolves to investigate the source of the disruptive noise coming from the construction site next door, the only way in is by walking a wire stretched from the Swan to the other building. Olivia recalls promising her grandmother not to do this again, 'unless I feel I really have to'. This happened in the first book of the series.
    • In the beginning, Cosmo refuses to eat cake as he is 'wheat- and gluten-free'. Cosi snarkily replies that he is also talent-free. At the end, Cosmo readily accepts the cake he is offered and says he is no longer wheat-free or talent-free, to which Cosi jokingly responds by saying that the days of him being talent-free are not over yet.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Olivia refers to her father by his first name on several occasions.
  • Calling Your Nausea: When she is raised high in the air during rehearsals for Peter Pan, Cosi says she's going to throw up, but her father yells at her to keep it together. She promptly vomits all over him.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Subverted. Cosi does break her leg, but this is not what ends her acting career. Her father willingly allows her to quit acting if she doesn't like it, and apologises for forcing her to do it all her life.
  • Catchphrase:
    • 'It sucks' appears to be Cosmo's, especially prior to his character development.
    • In contrast, Cosi has 'It's so neat' - usually, she and Cosmo direct their opposite catchphrases at the same thing, reinforcing their Polar Opposite Twins dynamic.
  • Character Tic: Raising his eyes to the heavens seems to be this for Cosmo.
  • Clear My Name: After Olivia's accident, Jack is fired from the play and his friend and colleague Pablo takes his place in the crew. He convinces Olivia to rejoin the play as Cosi's flying double so that she and Pablo can clear Jack's name and figure out what is wrong with the flying system.
  • Death Glare: The Wood twins' minders continuously interfere with classes at the Swan, which earns them one of these by the dance teacher, Miss Taylor.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the climax, while the characters are protesting the construction, Mr Wilkes-Cox loses his patience and climbs into the cabin of a bulldozer himself, intent on uprooting the trees in his way. Just when the resistance feels like all is lost, Katie appears on the bulldozer herself, demanding of her father to stop. She then proceeds to expose her father for falsifying the permits for construction and uprooting of trees and bribing authorities in order to sabotage the Swan.
  • Enemy Mine: One-sided. Katie Wilkes-Cox reaches out to Olivia about the disruptive construction taking place next to the Swan (which turns out to be the work of Katie's Jerkass father) and Olivia reluctantly decides to trust her. Katie has good intentions and has undergone a full Heel–Face Turn at this point.
  • Family Theme Naming: Twins Cosmo and Cosima Wood. Also an example of Meaningful Name as per the previous book.
  • Foil:
    • Cosima and Cosmo for Olivia and Tom respectively. Cosi, like Olivia, is very passionate for what she believes in, but, unlike her, is shy and afraid to step forward and defy expectations. Cosmo, like Tom, has a natural talent for acting, but is more arrogant and aloof. Eventually, thanks to their friendship with the two Swan pupils, the twins become more like Olivia and Tom.
    • Jack Marvell to Jasper Wood. Both are single fathers and professional performers whose children are following in their footsteps. However, Jasper is rude, dismissive and borderline abusive towards everyone and especially his children, whereas Jack is gentle and loving towards all children and does not force his daughters to do things they don't want to.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Cosi is asked her opinion on her father being cast as Captain Hook (opposite Cosmo as Peter and her as Wendy), she says that 'he'll hardly need to do any acting at all', not-so-subtly hinting at her father's treatment of his children behind closed doors.
    • Jack mentions in passing that Cosi seems to be taking an interest in the flying equipment used for the play. She is later revealed to be the one responsible for sabotaging said equipment whenever it is her turn to use it, as she doesn't want to be in the play.
    • While covering up for Cosi and portraying Wendy in the play, Olivia discovers her own talent and passion for acting, which becomes important in future instalments of the series.
  • Freudian Excuse: Jasper Wood had an older brother who was the more talented one of the two; he played Peter Pan and died as a teenager when Jasper was only eight. After his loss, Jasper vowed to carry on the family name as an actor and that his children would do the same.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Cosima doesn't really like acting and resents being famous. Eventually, with some encouragement from Olivia, she ends up using her platform to be an environmental activist.
  • It's All My Fault: After Olivia is injured due to the flying equipment malfunctioning, Jack (who is in charge of the stage equipment) and Cosi who purposely sabotaged it both feel like her ending up in the hospital is their fault.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In the beginning, Cosmo is rude and aloof, but he warms up to his peers at the Swan and shows his true colours, joining them in their efforts to save the Swan.
    • He seems to be taking after his father in this respect: Jasper treats his own children badly and is emotionally distant, but deep inside he worries about Cosi and her struggles with acting. He recognises that he has made her fear him and is at a loss for how to make things right.
  • Literal Soapbox Speech: Cosi delivers several of these, first to the Swans in the computer room after discovering how immediately endangered polar bears are, and later during the protest at the park in the climax.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Cosmo is only 12, but in all other aspects is this trope, being consistently glued to his mobile while others try to talk to him.
  • Picky Eater: Cosmo in the beginning, when offered cake, is outraged and insists that he cannot eat such a thing because he is wheat- and dairy-free. At the end, after some character development, he readily eats cake and reveals that he is no longer wheat-free... or 'talent-free', for that matter.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Cosmo is overdramatic and arrogant, while his sister Cosima is shy and the more sensible one of the pair.
  • The Reveal:
    • While secretly keeping watch on the flying rig, Olivia discovers Cosi, who, thinking no one is around, is sneaking up to cut it. Cosi then reveals to her that she did it in order to get out of having to act on stage in front of an audience because she was scared of failing.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Jasper Wood's reaction to being told no. He wants what he wants and he wants it now, and is willing to pay double or triple to forgo having to wait like everyone else.
  • Spoiled Brat: Cosmo is described as 'a spoiled little brat' by Sebastian.
  • Tempting Fate: Before the adult cast for Peter Pan is announced, Alicia Swan says she hopes Captain Hook will be played by someone who will be 'generous and supportive towards the twins' as this is their first time acting on stage. It is later revealed that the role was given to their less-than-affectionate father Jasper Wood.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Discussed. After the cast and crew discover that Cosi and Olivia have switched places in the play, they are divided as to whether they should tell the audience or not, as they feel they are deceiving the viewers. However, one of the Swan pupils, Aeysha, points out that all theatre is a deception of sorts and 'it only works because the audience wants and allows itself to be deceived'.
     Olivia's Enchanted Summer 
During their summer holiday, the Swans travel to Edinburgh to set up the Swan Circus. But a few chance encounters open up a mystery Olivia is itching to solve, and a potential threat to her position as her father's favourite highwire partner.
  • Abandoned Area: The address where the Swans' accommodation is supposed to (13 Jekyll Street) be turns out to be this. Olivia, however, notices that it is not quite abandoned.
  • Alliterative Name: Michael Marvell Jack's estranged older brother.
  • Ambiguously Related: When Olivia first runs into Alfie, she notices how much he is like Jack in terms of looks and mannerisms. She wonders if they are related somehow. They are uncle and nephew.
  • Contrasting Sequel Setting: Instead of the Swan Academy in London, the fourth book takes place at the Fringe festival in Edinburgh where the Swan Circus comes to life.
  • Circus Brat: Like Olivia and Eel, new characters Tati and Evie are this, being the daughters of Jack's former tightrope double act partner Nicu Purcarete.
  • Circus Episode: The setting shifts from the Swan Academy to Edinburgh where the Swans and the Marvells are putting on the Swan Circus as part of a festival.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The Purcarete sisters' dog Harry's behaviour around Mitch is one of Olivia's tip-offs that he is not to be trusted.
  • Foil: Evie to Olivia. The Swans and the adults alike notice how similar the two girls are to each other, and they even share some family backstory (their fathers both had career-ending injuries - except Jack eventually manages to recover and go back to highwire-walking - and both girls are born within a few months of each other and raised as Circus Brats), and even each of their initial opinion of the Swans is identical (seeing them as 'stage school brats' before warming up to them). However, their ways of coping with difficult times are contrasting.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Reckless show-off Evie and reserved, soft-spoken Tati are this.
  • Good Wears White / Evil Wears Black: As part of the Enchantment show the Swans put on at their circus, Olivia and Evie perform a battle scene on the high wire in which Evie wears white and Olivia wears black with this symbolism in mind.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Olivia becomes this when Jack gives Evie her spot in their double act at the end of the Swan circus show after a mild injury incapacitates her shortly; this is heightened by Jack's praise of Evie's talent on the highwire and everyone else's instant admiration of her.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Tati and especially Evie were forced by Mitch and circumstance to steal jewels even though they want to do anything but that.
  • Honorary True Companion: In the end, Evie and Tati are proclaimed to be honorary Swans, but they stay in Edinburgh with their aunt and do not reappear until the end of the last book.
  • How Dad Met Mom: The second half of this book reveals details of how Jack and Toni met. Toni was actually engaged to Jack's older brother, Michael, before falling for him instead and deciding to elope.
  • Iconic Outfit/ Limited Wardrobe: The yellow dress with blue trim for Evie. Until we learn her name, the narration refers to her as 'the girl in the yellow dress' as this is what she wears when she is first introduced, and most of the time after that.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: Evie and Tati are forced to be this by Mitch who has them do the dirty work for him in a number of robberies. They resent it but see no way out... until they run into the Swan Circus.
  • Loafing in Full Costume: As part of the impromptu advertisement they do for their show, the Swans walk around the festival grounds handing out flyers in their stage costumes. At the end, after their final show, they hang out on the grass still in costume and Eel reminds the others that they would be in trouble if Alicia catches them like that.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Michael and Alfie Marvell are Olivia and Eel's estranged uncle and cousin.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Olivia overhears her dad talking about how he regrets not having been there for Alfie's birth and, having earlier encountered a boy who looks remarkably like him, concludes that he must have cheated on her mother years ago. In fact, Alfie is Jack's nephew, the son of a brother Olivia didn't know he had as they were estranged.
  • My Greatest Failure: Jack considers eloping with his brother's fiancee this. They loved each other very much and he doesn't regret marrying her, but he does feel really bad about not having the courage to tell his brother in person and, as a result, getting estranged from him and not being present for the birth of his own nephew, Alfie.
  • Nonresidential Residence: The garage at 13 Jekyll Street where the Swans' accommodation was supposed to be is, in fact, where Tati and Evie hide out from Mitch.
  • Parent-Child Team: Jack and Olivia have always been this on the highwire, so Olivia is extremely jealous when Jack replaces her with Evie after an injury incapacitates her for a short while.
  • Runaway Hideaway: Evie and Tati are on the run from their scheming 'uncle' Mitch and are hiding out in an abandoned garage.
  • Second Love: Michael's wife is this for him, after his fiancee, Toni, ran away with his brother, Jack.
  • Sibling Triangle: Toni was initially engaged to Michael but fell in love with Jack and ran away with him.
  • Stage Magician: Olivia and Eel's cousin Alfie gets this from his father.
  • Technician vs. Performer: In Jack's words, Evie and Olivia are this respectively when it comes to highwire walking. Evie is superior technique-wise, but her heart is not in it as she was forced to do it by her father, whereas Olivia has a deep passion for it and it shows.
  • Tightrope Walking: There is significantly more of this going on in this book, as it focuses on the Swan Circus which includes Jack and Olivia and later Evie doing a highwire number.
  • You All Share My Story: Every new character introduced in this book turns out to be connected to the main family in a way. Evie and Tati are the daughters of Jack's late friend and tightrope partner, Mitch is their 'uncle' who forces them to steal jewels for him, and Alfie is Jack's nephew, the son of his estranged older brother Michael.

     Olivia's Winter Wonderland 
With the new school year come new opportunities for the Swans: a bestselling book series adaptation is looking for its young star, and the Swan is organising their charity panto, Cinderella. Swan graduates-turned-big-names return to their school to help with it, but a talentless primadonna wreaks havoc on the production. Meanwhile, Olivia and Tom discover a mysterious secret in an old building.
  • Abandoned Area: Much like in the previous book, turns out not to be really abandoned: Campion's Palace of Varieties, a legendary old theatre owned by Ella Campion and her family way back when Alicia Swan was a young girl. Olivia and Tom find out it still stands and old lady Ella still maintains it in the hopes of it being used again.
  • Beautiful Condemned Building: Campion's, and especially its theatre, has been thought to be empty for ages when Olivia and Tom accidentally discover it. Tom finds it creepy as it seems to be haunted, but Olivia is fascinated by it and wants to help reopen it to the public.
  • The Bus Came Back: After being gone for all of the previous book, a reformed Katie Wilkes-Cox returns to the Swan.
  • Cope by Pretending: After the events of book 3, Katie is now a Starving Student and her mother struggles with depression. Katie is very troubled by all of this and does her best to hide her impoverished state from everyone at the Swan.
  • December–December Romance: Ella Campion and her stage manager, Arthur Tuttons.
  • Enter Stage Window: When she and Tom first encounter Campion's, Olivia uses her tightrope to get into the building through a window.
  • The Gift: Alicia Swan talks to her colleagues about how rare a true gift for acting is, and that while Olivia has it but doesn't want to use it, Katie might as well have it too.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Georgia is forced to compete with her best friend Aeysha for a starring role in a film and finds herself very jealous, so much so that she wants a stranger to get the part rather than Aeysha if she can't get it herself. This culminates in Georgia deleting a message from the casting director from Aeysha's phone so she would miss a callback. At this point, however, she feels extremely guilty and immediately confesses everything to Aeysha.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Olivia and Tom make friends with the elderly Ella Campion.
  • Married to the Job: Ella has spent her life being so utterly devoted to Campion's that she hasn't noticed Arthur's love for her until both of them are elderly.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Campions, which has been perceived as abandoned for decades, stays intact for Olivia and Tom to discover. Probably because the elderly owner, Ella Campion, has been taking care of it throughout all these years with the help of her stage manager.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: Ella has these regularly, dreaming of the way her daughter-in-law and grandkids died. What is more peculiar is that Olivia begins having very similar nightmares after she and Tom discover Campion's.
  • Shed the Family Name: After her father's actions in book 3, Katie wants to dissociate herself from him and applies for the Zelda audition under the name Kate Carmichael (her mother's maiden name).
  • Sixth Ranger: Katie becomes this to Olivia's friend group when she joins in in this book.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: Ella has flashbacks of how she lost her daughter-in-law and grandchildren which result in delusion episodes. It doesn't help that, apparently, the ghosts of little Lizzie and Davey are haunting Campion's (even though only Ella and Olivia can sense them).

     Olivia and the Great Escape 
While Jack Marvell prepares to break a highwire world record, the Swan welcomes new pupil Alex Parks. He manages to charm everybody (save for Olivia) and make his way into the gang. But as the school works on its production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, its plot appears to reflect the pupils' reality a bit too well. Meanwhile, Eel sets out to test the extent of her talent for dancing.

  • Becoming the Mask: After Olivia rejects him, Alex pretends to be interested in Georgia (who has a massive crush on him) in order to get back at her, only for his feelings to become genuine as time goes by.
  • Callback: The Swans build a castell in order to get Olivia to Kasha's hotel room through the window. In book 2, he was one of the first Swans to learn how to do this.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Alex's talent for impressions comes in useful when Eel recruits him to impersonate her grandmother on the phone when she signs herself up for an audition at the Imperial Ballet School in secret.
  • Enter Stage Window: A signature move of Olivia's which comes up again in this book; when she can't get Kasha on the phone but needs to talk to him urgently, Olivia stakes out the hotel he is staying in. After a couple of failed attempts to get to him, she finds out from a couple of superfans which window leads to his room, then recruits the Swans to build a castell for her to climb up in order to get to him. A surprised Kasha asks if she entered by parachute.
  • Everyone Can See It: Pretty much everyone but the three of them notices that while Alex likes Olivia and she doesn't like him back, Georgia does like him a lot.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: It's not so much that they don't like him, but the gang are annoyed by Alex inviting himself to everything they plan, including secret meetings with Jack about his world record. Olivia especially is annoyed with Georgia for bringing him along everywhere as she dislikes him.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Alex is attracted to Olivia because she is the only one not to fall at his feet.
  • If I Can't Have You…: After Olivia rejects him, Alex agrees to help his father ruin her father's reputation. It gets worse than he expected and he regrets it.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Seventeen-year-old professional recording artist Kasha Kasparian takes a liking to nine-year-old Eel while he is leading a workshop at his former school, where she often amuses him by tap-dancing.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: The series ends with Tom and Olivia kissing for the first time.
    • Jack and Fran also get together very near the end.
  • One-Hit Wonder: In-universe, after his first single becomes a massive success, Kasha feels uninspired to write more songs on par with it and fears ending up as this.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Eel is so unaccustomed to being referred to by her legal first name, Alicia, that she doesn't realise she has just been announced among the accepted girls at a ballet school audition until the audition leader calls her back and repeats that she has been accepted.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: The entire Swan is at Alex's feet thanks to his charmer tendencies and his impressive talent for impersonation, but Olivia doesn't trust him. She is right not to.
  • Successful Sibling Syndrome: Throughout the series, Eel seems like the well-adjusted, obviously talented one of the Marvell sisters, whereas Olivia struggles to fit in at stage school and only sees herself as a tightrope walker. In this book, however, it is revealed that Eel envies her older sister this talent and has taken up dancing in order to have something she is better at than Olivia is.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Once Alex is exposed as The Mole who has been passing private information about Jack to his father in order to ruin his attempt at a world record, Georgia wants nothing to do with him and questions the reality of their relationship.

     Olivia's Curtain Call 
On the brink of her 14th birthday, Olivia is offered the opportunity of a lifetime - to play Juliet in a West End production of Romeo and Juliet opposite Swan graduate Kasha Kasparian. But when her father asks her to join him and Tom on a circus tour, she has to choose between her parents' passions. Meanwhile, love is all around as Kasha's secret relationship with Abbie grows in the midst of a family feud, Eel is trying to find her dad a new wife, and Olivia's feelings for Tom start to change.

  • Annoying Younger Sibling: When Olivia talks to Katie and Georgia (who have started acting like sisters) about what it's like to really have a sister, she describes Eel as this, but emphasises how much she loves her nonetheless.
  • Acquainted with Emergency Services: When the Marvells arrive at the hospital with Eel, Nurse Fran greets them like old friends since members of their family have been treated by her more than once.
  • Bookends: The book begins and ends with a fancy party where Olivia and Tom dance together while Eel and Emmy steal the spotlight with their own dancing.
  • Con Man: Abbie's cousin Tyler cons her father's company out of its money by forging financial reports.
  • Convenient Coma: Subverted. It takes a lot of prolonged effort to wake up a comatose Eel in the second half of the book.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: When Eel ends up in a coma at the hospital, Olivia decides to talk to her, which Fran encourages. Others follow her example, and Tom even rallies the Swans into a full song-and-dance routine in an attempt to wake her up.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Hinted at in the previous couple of books, but emphasised in this one; Tom gets extremely uncomfortable every time another boy so much as gives Olivia a friendly look. He never expresses this very noticeably, though.
  • Dance of Romance: Both in the beginning and at the very end of the book, Olivia and Tom dance together at a party. The first time they do is the moment Olivia starts seeing Tom in a different light. The second time, they kiss.
  • False Start: At Olivia's 14th birthday party, Tom is just about to give her a posie of lily of the valley, her favourite flower. Enter Kasha Kasparian with an enormous bouquet of colourful flowers. A distraught Tom contemplates throwing his flowers away, but then sneaks into Olivia's bedroom and leaves them there for her to find without a note.
  • Family Business: Kasha's family has one which his parents expected him to take over, only for him to become a performer instead. Abbie's family also has one which has been taken over by her cousin from her father.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: This is the third time Jack and Nurse Fran end up crossing paths at the hospital. This causes Eel, who has spent much of the book trying to find the perfect second wife for her dad, to conclude that Fran is it, especially since she has shown signs of liking Jack before.
  • Feuding Families: Kasha Kasparian's much older brother and Abbie Cardew's older cousin started a feud between their two families. This makes it very challenging for the two young actors to reveal that they are in love.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: After a Marvell family member is treated by the same nurse, Fran, for the third time within a year, the sparks flying between her and Jack are obvious to pretty much everyone.
  • Flower Motif: Lily of the valley is Olivia's favourite flower because it was her mother's favourite. Throughout the book, she receives a posie of them twice; the first time Tom sneaks into her room to leave them after being ignored for Kasha's enormous bouquet, and the second time he tosses them at her as she's taking a bow on the West End stage and she immediately recognises they are from him.
  • Following in Relative's Footsteps: The main plot of the book is about Olivia playing Juliet, a role her mother was famous for playing. On the other hand, her father wants her to follow in his footsteps and focus exclusively on tightrope walking. She ends up choosing both.
  • Heroic BSoD: Olivia appears to buckle under the pressure of the long audition process for Juliet in the West End and hands the role to the other auditionee, Abbie Cardew. She is, in fact, acting, as she knows that Abbie is secretly dating Kasha Kasparian, who is cast as Romeo, and this is their only way to spend time together away from their Feuding Families.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Just as Eel has received the news that she and her best friend Emmy are both cast in the title role in Matilda, she has a road accident and ends up comatose in the hospital. When she is well enough to stand up again, she has to use crutches and so must give up playing the coveted role.
    • Downplayed - she is kept in consideration for the following year, provided she has healed fully and still has what it takes to be in the musical.
  • Life Imitates Art: In-universe, Kasha Kasparian and one of the director's choices for Juliet in Shakespeare's play, Abbie Cardew, are secretly in love, but have to deal with their Feuding Families. Abbie's cousing Tyler, for one, is a clear Expy of Tybalt.
  • The Matchmaker: Eel and Emmy compile a list of women they think would be a good fit for Jack (mostly comprised of celebrities), then invite a bunch of women to a party in order to introduce them to him, all in the hopes of finding him a second wife. In the end, Eel's matchmaking efforts do succeed when an accident lands her in hospital, bringing Jack close to Fran, a nurse who has a crush on him.
  • New Friend Envy: Aeysha, who is set to leave the Swan at the end of the school year, isn't too happy to see Georgia and Katie's budding friendship and feels like she is already being replaced.
  • Oblivious to Love: While she finds herself seeing him with new eyes, Olivia doesn't realise for most of the book that Tom loves her.
    • Despite the attraction definitely being there, Jack and Fran need a nudge from Eel in order to get together.
  • Official Kiss: The book ends with one between Olivia and Tom.
  • Posthumous Character: Olivia's mother, Toni, died quite young, but is significant to the plot of this book as Olivia prepares to follow in her footsteps and play Juliet in the West End.
  • Practically Different Generations: Kasha's older brother, Hamo, is twice his age.
  • Secret Relationship: Kasha and Abbie have one of these due to the family feud started by their relatives.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Tom and Olivia both see each other in a new light after having been best friends ever since they met.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Much like the titular characters of the Shakespearean play which the main plot revolves around, Kasha and Abbie are this, kept apart by their Feuding Families.
  • True Companions: Despite their complicated history, Katie and Georgia grow into a sister-like friendship and even start to dress alike and talk in unison. Their chemistry and their loyalty to each other is what ends up winning them the roles of sisters in an experimental film.
  • Your Favourite: A non-food example. On Olivia's birthday, Tom brings her a simple but meaningful lily of the valley posie because he knows it's her favourite flower. In contrast, Kasha Kasparian gives her a lavish but meaningless bouquet of random flowers.