Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review of The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.
But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change
Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their very lives.
And soon, George is as well.
 Please forgive if I add all the blue material I can to this review of magnanimous proportions, I can only attest that I have been chewing the scenery for more than a few years. Hopefully it will be the freak act that I see it to be in my head!

Enter stage right, a strapping and upstanding young lad of only sixteen years who goes by the name of George Carole. George has many talents and secrets. He's going to share a few with you in these pages you're about to read. And in the end, a lucky few will know what it is to see first hand what magic, mystery and myth truly are. But I digress ...

I am one of the lucky ones. Books have always been a part of my life and maybe that in itself is what gives me the ability ... to let go. To pick up a book such as this one and be transported to another place, another time, another ... life. You see it all the time, advertisements for libraries transformed into gateways into other worlds. Right about now the theme song to Reading Rainbow should all be making it's way through the cobwebbed or maybe not so cobwebbed parts of your brain... "I can be anything ... da da da... Take a look, it's in a book, it's reading rainbow". Ahhhh, the good old days. It's funny after so many re-watchings of Star Trek: TNG, I can no longer imagine LeVar Burton narrating reading rainbow without his visor on! On with the show!

Be wary my faithful readers this book is going to take you on an adventure ride that may leave you a bit unhinged. Reflecting back on the various parts of this novel, I am even now struck by the fact that I can't really say that I have any parts of it that I did not enjoy. It is what a stand alone novel should be. A beginning (of sorts), a middle, and an end (also of sorts). Maybe it is just my coffee addled brain, but a good story blends these so well that you don't know which is which and in the end after the last page has been turned you realize that the book you have just read really came full circle. In the pages of this book you can attest to only following the life and goings on of George for a few months, but good writing will break the barrier of time and you will more likely feel as though you have yourself been traveling with the troupe for years and years. I applaud the fantastic elements of this story truly for what they are. I revel in them, breath them in, take them straight out of the novel and make a playground of them in my head... So sorry, bit overboard, right there. The writing lends itself to drawing vivid images of every scene in this made for my head movie, of sorts? Get me? No, no probably not. The characters in this book are unlike (most likely) anyone you will ever have the chance to meet in your real day to day life. And I am so so glad I have had the chance to have met them. There is an air of mystery in the whole cast, which added to the mystery of the overall plot leads to some enticing reading. But as the story treads on you will become familiar with these people ... almost intimately so. The Characters that make up the the actual troupe are all amazing each one with their own set of dynamics that only after a short time opens them up so you can see them for who they truly are. I have to say that Heironomo (Harry as he is referred to in the book) is probably my favorite. I would pine just as George does in the book for hours spent with him. Shoot ... I want to do a mind meld with him just so I can know everything he does. Trust me, I think you will too.  Secondly, This other "person" in this "other" place was grandly "fleshed" out so that I just could not put the book down while "she" was in it. I have been waiting my whole life to meet her. In the end I guess I won't have the chance after what Silenus does to her. Not being able to tip the secret jar pains me so. The book as a whole is a true testament to the old adage, "Things aren't always what they seem. The reveals keep coming the whole way through the book and it seems that the wow factor just keeps growing. Honestly, if it weren't for persistent schedules and mundane things like sleeping, you could sit and read this novel from cover to cover. It is just that good. Just like sitting and watching a fireworks show or even possibly the best magic performance you have ever seen, you will not want them to end.

Robert Jackson Bennett, my stage hat is off to you. You have really put on the show of a lifetime in this book of yours. This story of George and The Troupe that he ultimately becomes a part of opened up doors in my mind that have been left unopened for a very long time. Thank-you for giving me the opportunity to travel the country and the spaces between with The Troupe. Now I just need to get my hands on your other books. First up, Mr. Shivers, I believe.

As is the case with most theme park rides, this one comes with a height requirement. Let's say 60". Silenus has a bit of a potty mouth. So, check your vocabulary requirements at the gate.

5 out of 5 Benevolently beckoned boggarts bran-dishing berries of mind bending substance and origin.

Is it just me or would Jim Croce make the perfect Silenus if you put him in a top hat and checkered pants?


  1. You piqued my interest. This isn't the "traditional" fantasy I usually read, but I do love a good show. Gonna chk this out, thx.

  2. Thank JCM! This really was a wonderful book full of imagination. I was actually a little skeptical myself. But once you start reading and seeing how alive and vibrant the atmosphere is, you don't want to put the book down. Let me know here or on The Fantasy Tavern what you thought about it.