4.5 starsThe Troupe
is a grand gem of a novel, standing alone nicely and with gusto. As Silenus states, “You’re wrong, kid. I am just a performer. I’m just putting on a show you haven’t seen before.”
This novel also puts on a show that has not been done before within fantasy literature - not that there haven't been similar books, but there hasn't been this book.
Originality is a major selling point of fantasy. For every strong, original work of fiction such as [b:The Lord of the Rings|33|The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)|J.R.R. Tolkien|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347257199s/33.jpg|3462456], [b:Alice in Wonderland|13023|Alice in Wonderland (Alice, #1)|Lewis Carroll|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1166512952s/13023.jpg|2933712] or [b:Mistborn: The Final Empire|68428|Mistborn The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)|Brandon Sanderson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312038619s/68428.jpg|66322] you end up with two or three copies of [b:Eragon|113436|Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)|Christopher Paolini|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1293505063s/113436.jpg|3178011], [b:The Sword of Shannara|15575|The Sword of Shannara (The Original Shannara Trilogy #1)|Terry Brooks|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1218672503s/15575.jpg|877015] or [b:Pawn of Prophecy|44659|Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad, #1)|David Eddings|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320440039s/44659.jpg|2558293]. Even applauded novels like [b:A Game of Thrones|13496|A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)|George R.R. Martin|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1359134576s/13496.jpg|1466917] or [b:The Name of the Wind|186074|The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)|Patrick Rothfuss|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1270352123s/186074.jpg|2502879] are hardly truly original even if they may be entertaining and well written. What The Troupe
does is come up with a unique story that puts it among the top recently written fantasy novels I have read and places it at the top of best urban style fantasy novels.The Troupe
is certainly more urban fantasy than anything else, apart from perhaps historical fantasy. It is set in a past America, around the time when Vaudeville was at its peak and focuses on one young protagonist, 16 year old George Carole. However, for a 16 year old boy George is remarkably grown up and though we see this book as a third person at his side it is certainly not a YA novel.
The book opens with George making the decision to leave his job with a specific company and travel in pursuit of the legendary Vaudeville performer, Heironomo Silenus, and his troupe. George believes that possibly, just possibly, Silenus could be his father. Of course as he sets out to find Silenus, he discovers a world full of hidden magic and secrets and finds that things are not quite what they seem with each member of The Troupe. In the end these secrets lead to incredible plot twists for the reader which I found incredibly rewarding.
The book is neatly written with prose that rewards the reader. It is neither sparkling prose nor ungainly prose but rather the prose of a workman, prose which lies in the background and serves to provide the story with a nice economy. Occasionally the turn of phrase and sentence structure will reward prose lovers with a highly elegant statement or thought. On the whole I would describe the prose as compact and very powerful in how it works as I could not see a single clumsy phrase.
This is a book tempered with a nice amount of grittiness. If you as a reader dislike cursing in your novels at all, particularly curses which err on the side of blasphemy or have sexual connotation then I would suggest that this is perhaps not a book you will enjoy. If however, like me you can ignore those aspects of the writing and see that the author was layering his dialogue to show the grimy nature of his characters then I think you will still like this novel. Unlike some books ([b:Kraken|6931246|Kraken|China Miéville|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320551670s/6931246.jpg|8814204] comes to mind) which rely on cursing to create a gritty atmosphere this book was skilfully able to rely on adjectives rather than anything as common as cursing or sex. In my view this puts this novel a step ahead of other books in its class.
This is a book of discovery, a book about eternity and a book about humanity. It is a book about broken relationships and about characters who are utterly flawed, original and organic. I fell in love with almost every second of it, that is to say apart from the pacing at the start which took time to adjust to. To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
These famous opening lines from Blake’s Auguries of Innocence
, quoted within this novel, neatly sum up one of the major themes of the text in my view. This theme is the expression of how time and eternity connect to humanity. The idea of how we as people should make every second count on this world rather than allow time and old regret to destroy us and transform us into shadows of our former vibrant selves. For as Blake's poem ends:God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
This is a book I would fully recommend for those readers who like any, or a combination, of [b:Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1357027589s/14201.jpg|3921305], [b:Storm Front|47212|Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)|Jim Butcher|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1345556917s/47212.jpg|1137060], [b:The Night Circus|9361589|The Night Circus|Erin Morgenstern|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320508797s/9361589.jpg|14245059], [b:Stardust|16793|Stardust|Neil Gaiman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328433738s/16793.jpg|3166179] and [b:The Prestige|239239|The Prestige|Christopher Priest|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316130498s/239239.jpg|1688160]. Though this book stands as unique, the fae elements, the grittiness and the characterisation reminded me ever so slightly of those books.