Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book Review: The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

George Carole does not know his father. He was raised by his grandmother, and the only clue to his father’s identity is an old ticket stub from the Silenus troupe, famous on the vaudeville circuit. In desperation George leaves behind his home and his only employment to find the troupe. But when he does, he discovers their jobs are much more than mere entertainment-and that he may be the key to what they’ve been searching for all along.

The first reason I decided to pick up this book and read was because the plot sounded like a fantasy, but was placed in the fiction section, an “honor” awarded to only the best fantasy stories out there. And I’m extremely glad I did.

Bennett does his job well. He can paint a scene with a few well-chosen words, making this book not only more engaging but much more readable than many wordier authors. He doesn’t hold back-his protagonist is only sixteen years old and we the reader get to watch as he does things we know are stupid, but are keeping in line with his rather reckless character, and we can gain insight from his observations that he does not. Each of the characters were colorful, even ones that were shown only once or twice, and each place gets its own colorful description as well, both mundane and fantastic. But the best descriptions are reserved for the fantastic appearing in the mundane.

I was also impressed that Bennett does a good job with horror too. The first glimpses of the antagonists are…creepy. He places them firmly in the uncanny valley, making them constantly unnerving. The author even has his own cosmology for the book, and I could definitely see a Tolkien influence peeking through here, even when I recognized some aspects of the cosmology didn’t precisely make sense.

It’s difficult to describe this book without giving away the main plot. Needless to say, Bennett is a wonderful author, and The Troupe is a book that stays with you for a long time afterward.

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