The Troupe is the first novel that I have read by Bennet, and I have to say it did not disappoint. The Troupe is a very bold and enthralling magical horror adventure. At its heart, this book is a coming of age story of our main protagonist George Carole. George, is a sixteen year old adolescent boy, who is searching for his estranged father. He suspects that his father is the leader of a Vaundeville Troupe. George’s only clue is that he once saw his grandmother spit on a playbill advertising a Silenus performance. This leads him to make the brave decision to leave his own group to join a troupe led by Heironomo “Harry” Silenus, whom he believes to be his father. In doing this he discovers a world within the world he thought he knew. A world of Creation, magic songs, evil monster and interesting and complex characters. There is the fierce and beautiful dancer Colette. Grumpy puppeteer Professor Tyburn. Silent Stanley, who only communicates via chalk and blackboard. Small dainty Franny, the strong woman. And the leader himself, they mysterious imposing Silenus. It’s very difficult to discuss much more of the plot without it containing heavy spoilers, so if you want to know any more about the plot you will have to read it for yourselves I’m afraid.
Bennet, has proved himself a dab hand at storytelling, in many other hands this could have been just a typical coming of age magical adventure, with the moral “you had the power within you all along” But Jackson’s brilliance here is in taking the expected and twisting it around and all in this elaborately alien world crafted from weaving mythology and genre tropes in what I believe is an entirely original way.
As I said before The Troupe is my first book by Robert Jackson Bennett, but surely not the last. The one drawback I found was the book is very slow to start, it spends a lot of time setting the scene and the world, which overall I found beneficial but it was quite the slog at times, in terms of plot it was fresh and innovative and had more than enough twists to keep me hooked and I really liked the horror element to the story. So would I recommend The Troupe?.. yes, I think I would, especially if you are a fan of Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ or Shadow’s road trip across the US in company with deities, you will most definitely find something to like in George Carole’s adventures in The Troupe.