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The Troupe

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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 lives.

And soon...he is as well.

500 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 21, 2012

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About the author

Robert Jackson Bennett

27 books17.7k followers
Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards. His eighth novel, FOUNDRYSIDE, will be available in the US on 8/21 of 2018 and the UK on 8/23.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 297 reviews
Profile Image for Celeste.
886 reviews2,332 followers
May 12, 2019
You can find this review and more at Novel Notions.

“What I’m going to do up here, kid, is tell you a story. Like all stories, it’s an attempt to make sense of something larger than itself. And, like most stories, it fails, to a certain degree. It’s a gloss, a rendition, so it’s not exact. But it’ll do.”

I’m going to see Paranormal Cirque this weekend and am insanely excited. In anticipation, I picked up The Troupe. While not about a circus, it is about a vaudevillian troupe, which is similar in feel. And though not exactly in the horror genre, I know from experience with his Divine Cities trilogy that Robert Jackson Bennett often weaves horror elements into his novels, and he does so deftly. I’m so incredibly glad I picked up this book. Because as excited as I am about seeing Paranormal Cirque, I already know that The Troupe will stay with me longer than any performance could. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful story, and I read the last sixty or so pages through a haze of tears.
“Sometimes the last walk is all that’s left.”
“Every inch was a battle, every step a war.”

George is a surly teenager who is already an incredibly gifted musician. The he hears that the Silenus Troupe is expected in a city not too far away, George quits his job as house pianist for a theater and sets off to finally see the show that is infamous for its audience’s inability to remember what they saw when the curtain falls. George has been obsessed with the show for years, not only because of its mystique but because Silenus, the leader of the troupe, is George’s father. Silenus just doesn’t know it yet. Finally, after yearning for so long, George sees both the show and his father. There’s a slight problem, though; George can remember the performance, which is supposed to be impossible. And to make matters worse, wolves in men’s clothing are hunting the troupe, and it looks like George has no choice but to go along for the ride.
“If you were to inspect my shoes, you would find on their soles the soil of a thousand countries. My many coats have soaked up the salty air of all the seven seas. Were you to see my dustbin you would find a dozen hats, all drained of color by distant suns. There are the lengths I have gone to to procure our world’s greatest treasure, our most precious resource, our most secret and unpredictable wonder… Entertainment.”

The entire novel is built around the Silenus Troupe’s unique mission: to perform what fragments they can find of the Song of Creation in order to keep the dark Nothingness from consuming their world. I’m always a sucker for books that feature musicians as central characters, but very rarely have I found a story in which music itself plays so significant a role. This music was conveyed so powerfully, so movingly, that there were instances that made my breath catch in my throat. I firmly believe in the power of music, and its ability to reach keeping into the human heart that any spoken or written word. Lyrics have had a profound impact in my life, especially when paired with beautifully crafted melodies. I think that music can move and enrage and incite and heal unlike any other medium on earth. And I felt that power in Bennett’s take on the Song of Creation.
“I think art… I think it’s making something from nothing, basically. It’s taking something as simple as a movement, or a few notes, or steps, or words, and putting them all together so that they’re bigger than what they ever could have been separate. They’re transformed. And just witnessing that transformation changes you. It reaches into your insides and moves things around. It’s magic, of a sort.”

This book was also far deeper philosophically that I anticipated. Questions of creation and purpose and intelligent design wove themselves between darker questions regarding the problems of pain, and loss, and letting go. Hope and hopelessness mingled in discussions of the Creator and the intentions behind creation. If existence hurts so much, then why do we strive to continue on? It is worth it?
“I’ve come to some decisions recently, you see, and I think… I think that, even though existing is very painful sometimes, and very confusing, I think I would like it to… go on.”

Relationships in all their forms was also a central theme. Whether between friends, or lovers, or children with their parents, the bonds of relationship were presented as simultaneously imperative and heartbreakingly fragile. These relationships were often not what they first appeared to be, and two such relationships were sources of my aforementioned tears as the novel drew to a close. The ties between performers who travel and work together day in and day out are always tight, messy, tangled things, and the Silenus Troupe demonstrated this better than most. Each had their own breathtaking talent, and behind each talent lay immense, almost incomprehensible pain. The gnarled backstage reality of the troupe fulfilled the idea of beauty rising from ashes better than almost any such picture I’ve come across. Often, the best art, the art that moves us and stays with us long after the song is over or the last page is read, is spawned by pain. There’s a reason that artists are so often described as tortured. I love the rawness Bennett allowed his readers to see in his characters, as well as the beauty of their performances.
“But sometimes people just leave, kid. You can’t let the leaving or the absence rule you. We must all be the authors of our own lives now.”

I honestly don’t know what else to say. As much as I adored the Divine Cities, this book surpassed that trilogy in my heart. The Troupe moved me, and it spoke so deeply to my heart. I loved the characters, and the setting, and the writing. But most of all, I loved the Song. This is a standalone novel, and though I can compare it loosely to The Night Circus in setting and The Ocean at the End of the Lane in tone, it is utterly unique among the hundreds upon hundreds of books I’ve read in my life. It’s an instant favorite for me, and I implore you to read it and experience that same magical, musical power for yourself.
“Things do not stop. They move on without us. It is a truth so great that most people must invent and live lies to deny it.”
Profile Image for carol..
1,513 reviews7,699 followers
August 10, 2015

Alas! I come to this book through backtracking through Bennett’s bibliography, first starting with City of Stairs and following with American Elsewhere. I mostly fell in love with his writing and sense of place, and while The Troupe has ingredients of those, it lacks the nuances of the other two as well as the sheer inventiveness of Stairs.

Clearly not destined to be my favorite of his works, I kept hearing echoes of the young adult classic, A Wrinkle in Time, the ballad of Tam Lin and-–hush, now-–the Piers Anthony Incarnations of Immortality about Nature, Being a Green Mother. I suppose that’s a clue that I’m old: when everything reminds me of something else. But one that’s one of the benefits of being old as well; the ability to recognize the conceptual lineage of a work and its place within the cultural field.

George Carole is a sixteen year-old piano prodigy who has been making his living playing for vaudeville shows. He’s not just earning a living; he’s seeking the leader of a vaudeville troupe, Silenus, who he suspects is his father. The troupe he travels with is known nationwide, composed of four unusual acts including a puppeteer, a dancer-singer, a strongwoman, and a remarkable musical chorus act that no one can exactly remember. When George goes backstage after witnessing their performance, he has an opportunity to warn them about some suspicious men in gray who are following the troupe as well. A narrow escape results in George’s accompanying the troupe. From there, George works to integrate his talent, learns–but only a little–about each of the performers, and struggles with telling Silenus his secret. Silenus is on his own mission: to discover portions of the First Song, the song that called the world into creation, and is willing to put his troupe into danger to recover pieces of it.

The writing is exacting, but not magical. It lacks the playfulness in both language and ideas evident in Stairs (see my review for examples). At times, it starts to hit that magic, chiefly in scenes that lend themselves to fantastical description: “With the perverse, determined steadiness of a crab molting from its shell, the shadow produced the image of a man in a gray coat and black bowler, and then it seemed to somehow fold up inside him once it was done” and I can hear the same writer that enchanted me in Stairs. For the most part, however, we are inside George’s head, and although George ends up in some marvelous places, he’s largely preoccupied with his own needs, demonstrating little curiosity and introspection about what occurs there. Sadly, it ends up hamstringing Bennett’s ability to evoke the wonder in those situations.

Characterization is perhaps one of best aspects of the book, depending on one’s tolerance for immature youth and arrogant, autocratic men.
"George gave her the sort of impatient look that can only be given by the very young to the very old..."
A third of the way through The Troupe, I started remembering Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time. Mind you, though I long considered it a fabulous book, Charles Wallace was one of my least favorite people in it, so it’s not a comparison to be desired. Prodigy, fatherless, lacking compassion yet blessed with insight; both Charles and George are emotionally young and make plentiful mistakes. Given the time period and his financial independence, George is almost painfully young, and reminds me of a pre-adolescent, not a teen. As a character, George seems more suitable for a young adult book. The other members of the troupe provide some much-needed relief from those two, but again, they only shine as George relates to them, except the Puppeteer.

Judging by the four and five-star reviews I’ve seen, this book resonates for many people. There’s some character twists near the end that I appreciated, particularly about the troupe. The opposing forces were interesting and villainous in different, although largely predictable, ways. Which essentially sums up my reaction: interesting but predictable.

For me, The Troupe doesn’t have enough inventiveness to move it above a ‘liked it’ reaction. Perhaps I’m unfairly comparing it to Bennett’s later works. At least I wasn’t drawn in by the marketing, which states “Vaudeville: Mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd. A world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.” I get the feeling that the blurb-writer didn’t read this one at all. I’d say it’s the opposite, and not about vaudeville at all, but about dual narcissistic quests through unusual setting: George’s search for a father and Silenus’ quest to own a song. It isn’t a culture clash at all, but a metaphysical journey, and while Silenus employs deception to achieve his ends, I wouldn’t rate any of it ‘wickedly delightful’ scale. A further note for horror fans: I’d also say marketing was deceptive there as well. One horror-like vinette about the puppets, otherwise the horror is on the scale of Grimm’s fairy tales. Certainly read The Troupe if reviews sound appealing, but don’t be misled by the book description.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews474 followers
October 27, 2021
Hey, I have a booktube channel (youtube for book reviews, etc.), and I include The Troupe in my Top 10 Underrated Books list here. Please subscribe if I earned it!

The Troupe is my first book by Robert Jackson Bennett, but surely not the last. When the highly favorable reviews started coming out earlier this year, I was very intrigued and now that I've read it, I can't really think of a better reading choice I've made this year. The only question I have now is, "How can there only be 188 ratings of this book on Goodreads?" :D

George is making a name for himself as a pianist in Vaudeville (popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries), but what he really wants to do is track down his father. The only problem is that he's pretty sure his father is the one and only Silenus from The Famous Silenus Troupe, a troupe both elusive and mysterious.

I was almost immediately sucked in by Bennett's writing alone. He writes with that ineffable magical quality that makes it a joy to read the words alone, sans plot or characters. The addition of plot and characters does wonders as well. :)

The first scene alone had me smiling ear to ear, knowing this was a great choice

"George has quit!"
"What?" said Victor, the second chair cellist. "George? Our George?"
"George the pianist?" asked Catherine, their flautist.
"The very same," said Tofty.
"What kind of quit?" asked Victor. "As in quitting the theater?"
"Yes, of course quitting the theater!" said Tofty. "What other kind of quit is there?"
"There must be some mistake," said Catherine. "Who did you hear it from?"
"From George himself!" said Tofty.
"Well, how did he phrase it?" asked Victor.
"He looked at me," said Tofty, "and he said, 'I quit.'"
Everyone stopped to consider this. There was little room for alternate interpretation in that.
"But why would he quit?" asked Catherine.
"I don't know!" cried Tofty, and he collapsed in his chair, accidentally crushing his rosin and leaving a large white stain on the seat of his pants.

George finally catches up to the Silenus Troupe and the first thing he does, not really knowing what else to do, is buy a ticket to their show. He quickly finds out that the troupe's reputation is deserving as the first act is a puppet show...but he can't see the strings? and what's with the creepy backdrop? did it just change?

George delves deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the troupe, but he's met with additional mysteries the more he finds out, the creepiness of the troupe being the least of his worries. Plunging into Bennett's imagination is both terrifying and thrilling.

At one moment I was scared out of my mind, laughing the next, and constantly (and terribly) curious the entire time. The mysteries of both the troupe and the world to which we are introduced, both similar to our own and different at the same time (not only because of the time period), are boundless and absorbing.

Bennett not only writes about magic, but his writing itself is imbued with magic and a bit of humor and even a little darkness. To be mentioned in the same breathe as Neil Gaiman would be no stretch of the imagination. The Troupe may possibly be the best book released in 2012.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)

NOTE: This is actually the condensed version of my review. I had another version written out and then when I saved, Goodreads decided I'd been on here too long and didn't save it. Whoops. You'd think I'd learn this lesson by now.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,907 followers
August 11, 2019
Despite the sometimes slow feel of the start of this book, full of a mysterious Vaudevillian performance, a found (formerly missing) dad, and some dark, Cthuhlu-like creatures coming after the Troupe, (none of which SOUNDS particularly slow), this novel eventually picks up the pace and develops into some truly awesome, even epic, proportions.

I don't know what I was meant to expect when I read this, but what I got was NOT it. Traveling around, performing a bit here and there, keeping one step ahead of the Wolves, is just the start.

Eventually, I kinda fell into a delighted stupor as I picked up more than a few echoes of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Adjustment Team, Momo, and any number of beleaguered Vaudevillian tales.

Yes, expect the forces of light and darkness, of the Nothing and Song, of fae, of immortal caretakers, of tragic families, of longing, love, and massive betrayals that hit home again and again.

Neat, huh?


I'm SO glad I finally got around to picking up some earlier Robert Jackson Bennett! I feel much better. And I'm delighted.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews558 followers
January 18, 2013

4.5 stars

The 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 The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland or Mistborn: The Final Empire you end up with two or three copies of Eragon, The Sword of Shannara or Pawn of Prophecy. Even applauded novels like A Game of Thrones or The Name of the Wind 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 (Kraken 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 Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Storm Front, The Night Circus, Stardust and The Prestige. Though this book stands as unique, the fae elements, the grittiness and the characterisation reminded me ever so slightly of those books.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,246 reviews394 followers
November 30, 2014
The Troupe is a bold imaginative and gripping adventure, part magical realism, part horror, part Southern gothic. At its heart, the novel is George's coming of age story -- George abandons his vaudeville group to join a troupe led by Heironomo "Harry" Silenus, whom he believes to be his father. Most, but not all of the characters are interesting and complex: a Persian princess who sings and dances, a puppeteer whose puppets appear to speak and move on their own, a strongwoman whose great strength seem to belie her slight size, a mute assistant, and protagonist, George, a young and talented pianist. The back story for each character revolves around the mysterious leader, Silenus.

There is a song that was lost when man and Earth was created (the First Song), and the mission of Silenus has been to reassemble it to save the world from dark forces. Each town they stop in becomes just a little bit better when the troupe sings this haunting song. It is a beautifully written work of art, but I found the ending to be pretty disappointing given the talent revealed in the basic story.
Profile Image for The Shayne-Train.
361 reviews84 followers
January 29, 2014
This book is amazing and beautiful.

A young man seeks out a traveling troupe of vaudevillians in search of his father, and discovers a world under and within the world he thought he knew. A secret history, a magic song, the story of Creation, evil monsters bent on erasing existence itself, and characters so flawed and wondrous.

This is one of those books that causes "I was sad that it ended" to be an actual feeling of a passionate reader.

Do yourself a favor, and read this wonderful novel. It might change you, but whatever happens happens.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,478 reviews937 followers
January 10, 2013
The book first came to my atention for its circus connection - a favorite theme of mine. Then I saw it received a lot of glowing reviews from people I follow. Technically, the story is about vaudeville not circus, a related form of showbusiness that knew its greatest popularity at the turn of the 20th century, with artists touring small venues all across America, before the magic of the silver screen replaced it in popularity. I believe Chaplin is the greatest example of a performer starting in vaudeville and moving to cinema. The Troupe is a much more ambitious project that a simple evocation of the period, bringing in an interesting riff on the biblical cosmogony, a lot of fantasy tropes (elves, air elementals, golems/marionettes) and existentialist angst (why struggle if the end will be the same, no mattter what).

In line with other great tales bringing together the performing arts and the supernatural, the tale is a dark one, closer to horror than to what we now label urban fantasy. The narrative shies away from the light of the sun, moving mostly in the shadows, in the dark of winter, under a cosmic cold from which the world may never recover. Danger, death, destruction, despair lurk around every corner, with Armaggedon waiting in the stalls to make a final entrance. The-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it is one of those overused fantasy cliches that can turn me off if deployed without finesse. The jury is still out regarding this present case, with enough positive aspects of the story to balance things out.

The human element raises the novel above the usual supernatural adventure/murder investigation, with very well defined characters and complex interactions involving coming of age, romance, family ties, jealousy, self sacrifice, obsession and so on. The main narrator is George Carole, an orphaned teenager with a native talent for playing the piano, on a quest to find his runaway father on the vaudeville circuit. He comes off the page as an amalgam of ambition and insecurity, romantic yearning and muleheaded obstinacy. Mostly selfish like all youths, he compensates with a solid moral core and a streak of kindness towards the less fortunate. He will be eclipsed in the novel by his alleged father, Heironomous 'Harry' Silenus, Oldest Wanderer, Harvester of Echoes, Bearer of Lights Eternal, Master of Stage and Speech and Song . A cranky authocrat with a foul mouth and an inflexible focus on a mysterious private crusade, Silenus is the leader of the Troupe: a curious collection of supernatural performers whose mystery is compounded by the fact that the audience is struck by a memory loss after each of their shows. Kingsley Tyburn is an elderly gentleman, a former professor who now opens the spectacle with a ventriloquist act. The first comparison that comes to mind is Jeff Dunham and his crazy puppets, but Kingsley has a definite melancholic, even creepy tone instead of satire. Collette is the youngest member before George joins the troupe and she is an exotic dancer, introduced as a Persian Princess. Her role cannot be dismissed simply as eye-candy or love interest, she gets some powerful scenes denouncing the rampant racial discrimination of the period. Franny the strongwoman comes across as more of an animated mummy than actual human being, performing improbable feats of iron bending and safe juggling. She will have her moment in the limelight, in a spectacular finale that has more to do with emotional overload rather than credible demonstration of strength. Last member of the troupe is the quiet Stanley, communicating only by writing on a portable blackboard, perfoming mind/reality altering songs on the cello under the baguette of Silenus. His temperament provides a needed counterpoint to the explosive and aggravating personality of the team manager, an oasis of calmness and common sense.

As I've already mentioned, the tensions and the interplay between the members of the troupe were the highlights of the novel for me. I would have probably rated it higher, but the actual plot, while clever and very well paced, strained my suspension of disbelief beyond reasonable bounds and I often found the dialogue and the info dumps less accomplished than the imaginative powers of the author. Ultimately, I read the story as parrable, a metaphor for life's struggles and the inevitability of death, a magic spectacle were the message is more important than the nuts and bolts behind the curtains. The prose is generally effective in delivering the message, but I cannot help wishing for the pen of a more lyrical writer, capable of making the pages really soar and sing. The comparisons have already been made by other reviewers, and I found them all appropriate, at least in theme if not in prose: Ray Bradbury, Charles Finney, Angela Carter, more recently Erin Morgenstern and Carlos Ruiz Zafon. They all share a fascination for the gothic mood and for the world of show business. Mr. Bennett should be proud of such select company.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
986 reviews1,113 followers
January 3, 2019
After being blown away by “City of Stairs” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), I eagerly hunted down more books my Mr. Robert Jackson Bennett: the first of his other works to fall in my hands was “The Troupe”, which I cracked open happily, as anything vaudeville or circus themed makes me totally giddy.

While the story is seen through the eyes of young piano prodigy George Carole, “The Troupe” is more the story of Heironomo Silenus, a strange man who leads his unusual company of vaudevillians across the small town circuit. Their performances are thought by everyone to be wonderful, despite most people mysteriously forgetting parts of the show… George originally follows Silenus because he suspects the man of being his father, but an encounter with a creepy gray-clad man changes the nature of this family reunion entirely, and before he knows it, George is now part of Silenus’ troupe and becomes better acquainted with its strange performers – not to mention their true purpose.

I loved the characters, and the way the pacing leads them to slowly reveal themselves to the reader as the plot unfolds. It takes a while before we really get to know the enigmatic Colette, Franny, Kingsley and Stanley, but the wait is absolutely worth it, as the intricate relationships between the characters push the plot forward like a perfectly set time-bomb...

I found the story fascinating, and creepy in a truly Bradbury-esque way: it doesn’t have the poetic prose of say “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), but the sense of wonder and magic is in the same vein. There is no doubt that this is an early book, but you can definitely see the potential, the way Bennett is sharpening his teeth and working on the chops that will eventually create “The Divine Cities”: the awesome ideas and brilliant thoughts are clearly in his head and making their way on the page already.

Recommended for fans of dark fantasy and vaudeville!
Profile Image for Bogdan.
849 reviews1 follower
May 22, 2017
This is the second book I read from Jackson Bennett and I realize that everything this writer touches turns to gold.

I hadn`t big expectations from this book because the synopsis wasn`t a big deal.

But I couldn`t be more wrong about this. And what a book has been!

The ending wasn`t so satisfying but I have closed my eyes because until then the whole thing works like a charm.

If I look at the characters I could conclude that the book resembles a little with American Gods by Neil Gaiman but it`s like a Big brother not a copy of it.

It has a lot of fantasy adventure, very good characters, drama, a lot of family & world secrets, disturbing ones, Cardinals and Fairies, crimes, Big bad wolves, and interesting setting on the theory of the Creation of the world, and the list goes on.

The black "wolf" with a conscience crisis was the best second row character I meet in a while.

With this book, after City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett surprised me the second time. I`m looking forward to the third one.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,392 reviews821 followers
August 21, 2018
Ambitious and detailed, very atmospheric and really quite strange! The pace is not slow but I found it a slow read.
Profile Image for Wortmagie.
512 reviews77 followers
April 3, 2019

Hände hoch: wer hat schon einmal „Dinner for One“ gesehen? Ich stelle mir ein Meer erhobener Hände vor. Aber wusstet ihr, dass der Silvestersketch aus der US-amerikanischen Bühnenunterhaltungsform Vaudeville hervorging? Das Vaudeville war eine Vorstufe des Varietés im 19. Jahrhundert. Die Vorführungen bestanden aus mehreren in sich abgeschlossenen Nummern, die von Schauspiel, Gesang, Tierdressur, Bauchrednern bis zu Akrobatik und Tanz reichten. Die Theater, die eher an Schaubuden erinnerten, gehörten weitgehend zu großen Ketten, weshalb die Künstler_innen häufig durch das ganze Land tourten. Viele spätere Berühmtheiten wie zum Beispiel die Drei Stooges begannen ihre Karriere im Vaudeville. In seinem Roman „The Troupe“ entführt der Autor Robert Jackson Bennett seine Leser_innen in diese bunte, exotische Welt.

Der 16-jährige George Carole ist ein musikalisches Wunderkind. Sein Pianospiel ist beinahe magisch. Niemand versteht, warum er sich ausgerechnet im Vaudeville eine Anstellung suchte. Sein Talent könnte ihm die Türen der großen Konzerthäuser öffnen und seine Taschen füllen. Aber George interessiert sich nicht für Reichtum und Ruhm. Er hat nur einen Wunsch: er möchte seinen Vater kennenlernen. Dieser ist niemand geringeres als der berühmt-berüchtigte Heironomo Silenus. Die Shows seiner Truppe sind in Vaudeville-Kreisen legendär; sie gelten als einzigartig, mystisch, lebensverändernd. Als es George tatsächlich gelingt, Silenus auf sich aufmerksam zu machen und Teil seines Ensembles zu werden, steht ihm jedoch eine entsetzliche Offenbarung bevor. Die skurrile Künstlergruppe führt ein Leben auf der Flucht, im ewigen Krieg gegen die Dunkelheit, die droht, die Welt zu verschlingen. Sie sind die einzigen, die das göttliche Geheimnis kennen und sich dem abgrundtief Bösen entgegenstellen. George wird in einen uralten Kampf hineingezogen, der ihm mehr abverlangt, als er vielleicht zu geben bereit ist…

Robert Jackson Bennett veröffentlichte „The Troupe“ 2012. Damit erschien der Urban Fantasy – Roman zwei Jahre vor City of Stairs, dem ersten Band der „Divine Cities“-Trilogie, die ich begeistert feierte. Es ist immer ein bisschen ungünstig, sich rückwärts durch das Werk eines Autors oder einer Autorin zu lesen. Zwei Jahre erscheinen wenig, können in der Entwicklung eines schriftstellerischen Stils aber durchaus einen Unterschied machen. „The Troupe“ wirkte auf mich, als hätte Bennett seine individuelle Stimme damals noch nicht so ganz gefunden. Sein formidabler Schreibstil war noch nicht ausgereift, blitzt jedoch schon manchmal auf. Besonders das Ende des Einzelbands, das ein weiteres Mal beweist, was für ein Händchen der Autor für berührende, poetische Abschlüsse hat, zeichnet seinen zukünftigen Werdegang bereits vor. Zuvor las sich das Buch für mich hingegen etwas zäh und träge. Ich konnte lange nicht erkennen, worauf Bennett hinauswollte und war ein bisschen enttäuscht, dass „The Troupe“ meine Erwartungen nicht erfüllte. Als ich erfuhr, dass die Handlung im Rahmen des Vaudevilles spielen sollte (und den Begriff gegoogelt hatte), rechnete ich mit einer Art fahrender Freakshow voller bizarrer Figuren, die reihenweise groteske Auftritte absolvieren. Tatsächlich ist die Truppe, der der Protagonist George beitritt, wesentlich kleiner und unspektakulärer, als ich mir vorgestellt hatte. Sie besteht aus Heironomo Silenus, einer orientalischen Tänzerin namens Colette, dem Bauchredner Kingsley, der Starken Frau Franny und dem Cellisten Stanley. Die fünf sind zweifellos skurril, doch meinem Empfinden nach wurde ihre Ausstrahlung von der Tragik ihrer Biografien dominiert. Sie wirkten schnell nicht mehr faszinierend oder kapriziös auf mich, sondern wie ein ziemlich jämmerlicher Haufen, dem das Vaudeville kaum etwas bedeutet. Das Setting dient ihnen lediglich als Tarnung. Ihre Exzentrik und jeweilige Verbindung mit dem Übernatürlichen stehen nicht im Mittelpunkt der Geschichte, sondern ihre Mission: der Krieg gegen die abstrakte Bedrohung der Dunkelheit, den Bennett in den Kontext eines kreativen Schöpfungsmythos integriert, dessen schlichte, bezaubernde Schönheit eher an ein Märchen als an christliche Narrative erinnert. Die Truppe war anders, als ich angenommen hatte, sie überraschten mich dadurch allerdings sehr oft und verhielten sich unvorhersehbar, wodurch „The Troupe“ eine charismatische, charakterzentrierte Form der Spannung aufrechterhielt. Niemand ist in diesem Buch wirklich heldenhaft, nicht einmal George, den Bennett unverfälscht, ehrlich und erfrischend fehlbar portraitiert. Daher war ich fähig, meine Erwartungshaltung zu korrigieren und der hässlichen Wahrheit ins Gesicht zu sehen: der Kampf gegen das Böse ist nicht glorreich, sondern produziert kaputte Persönlichkeiten, die zu traumatisiert sind, um als Held_innen betrachtet zu werden und dennoch Hoffnung vermitteln.

Als ich „The Troupe“ ausgelesen hatte und das Buch zuschlug, dachte ich zuerst, wie unsagbar traurig diese Geschichte ist. Das ist sie definitiv. Wer auf einen bunten, schrillen, fröhlichen Roman hofft, wird enttäuscht werden. Robert Jackson Bennett ist kein Autor für seichte, oberflächliche Unterhaltung. Er skizziert in diesem Einzelband ein Bild exquisiter, ästhetischer Tragik, kein Zirkusspektakel. Ich war von dessen bedeutungsschwerer Tiefe selbst überrascht und versuche immer noch, das Gefühl der Trauer abzuschütteln, das mich überfällt, wenn ich über das Buch nachdenke. Daher fiel mir die Bewertung ziemlich schwer. Einerseits negierte „The Troupe“ beinahe alle Erwartungen, die ich vor der Lektüre entwickelt hatte. Andererseits habe ich viel mehr bekommen, als ich jemals vermutet hätte, nur auf eine andere Art und Weise. Deshalb vergebe ich vier Sterne. Euch rate ich, euch für eine emotional fordernde Erfahrung zu wappnen, solltet ihr „The Troupe“ lesen wollen. Dieses Buch sticht mitten ins Herz.
Profile Image for Mia.
289 reviews38 followers
April 19, 2015
George braved the world to search for his father
Though of money or an address he had neither.
But despite his youth his courage he did gather,
In this mission he was determined not to falter.

Enormous skill he did, however, possess,
Innate piano-playing talent was his largesse.
To Vaudeville he went off to find success --
That was George's big plan, more or less.

Alas, his father dear he did indeed find
But he turned out quite mean rather than kind.
He'd have fled at that moment if he'd had half a mind
Good thing he didn't for the truth was yet to unwind.

Moreover, everything was not quite so kosher;
As days passed, it all just got stranger and stranger.
What it was George simply couldn't quite figure,
But he started suspecting it was something quite sinister.

Verily much danger followed the troupe,
Unceasingly hunted by a menacing group.
They would need all their artifice to pull off the dupe
And, should they fail, the losses they couldn't recoup.

While traveling with the troupe George came into his own.
Unmindful of time, oh look how much he's grown!
It mattered not the circumstances in which he was thrown --
He learned many things he might not otherwise have known.

I know not how to explain the depth of this story,
But to read this here book I urge you most ardently.
Profound and sublime and oftentimes eerie,
The watershed moments touched me quite deeply.

If you're one to crave mystery in books that you read,
If you yearn to be moved, be surprised, or be queried,
If to learn much about fierce, infinite love is a need --
All of these you will find in The Troupe, so proceed.

Being and nothingness entangled in the notes of a melody.
Could the fate of the world be decided by man's perfidy?
Harmony and chaos teetering on the edge precariously,
Be mindful -- what you see may change or be gone instantly.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,314 reviews431 followers
July 16, 2015
Ok, Shayne, you were right.
I really liked this book.

Yes, there were entire passages that I could have red-penned to death because they were ridiculous and made me roll my eyes and sigh with irritation but those were few and far between.

I think this is what I wanted Winter's Tale to be. Actually, I know this is what I wanted that book to be.

It's a whimsical tale about the world succumbing to darkness and those who are tasked with keeping said darkness at bay. And failing. For reasons.

There's myth, magic, and music but it's woven in as part of life, as every day sort of ocurrences even though there's no myth, magic, nor music happening outside the Troupe. Well, a little bit, but only as far as other mystical beings are concerned. Pretty much, the rest of the world seems to be unaware that this is going on around them but those who are aware think it's no big thing.

I wasn't satisfied with the ending. It felt rushed and like it was put together in a dream where it all made a beatiful and deep sort of sense but that all falls apart when you wake up and really think about it. While that feeling meshes well with the overall story, it didn't satisfy me, the reader.

Regardless, this is a fun romp through partial myth, through on-the-road performing life, through creation and the potential end thereof.

I'd like to write a better review but I can't get the words out and this is going to be as good as it gets.
Profile Image for WendyB .
511 reviews
November 8, 2021
Magical, sad, interesting, horrifying... all apply.
This was an all-around good story that I sometimes needed to take in small bites just so I could savor it.
Profile Image for Aleshanee.
1,390 reviews94 followers
October 29, 2019
Nachdem ich die Fantasy Trilogie "Die göttlichen Städte" von dem Autor gelesen habe, wollte ich unbedingt noch andere Titel von ihm ausprobieren. Silenus ist mir sofort durch dieses mega geniale Cover ins Auge gestochen und mysteriöse, unheimliche Geschichten mit Zirkuskulisse bzw. Schaustellertruppen finde ich eh immer total interessant!

Obwohl die Idee dahinter echt ziemlich gut war, konnte mich der Erzählstil leider nicht so wirklich fesseln, was ich super schade fand. Es plätscherte oft vor sich hin und stellenweise war ich fast soweit, Seiten zu überspringen - andererseits gab es auch Szenen, die wirklich gut und spannend waren.

Hauptcharakter ist der 16jährige George Carole, ein Ausnahmetalent am Piano, der sich durch die Bewunderung seiner Zuschauer eine gewisse Arroganz angeeignet hat. Sein Drang, sich ständig beweisen zu müssen, überlagert viele andere Gefühle und am Grunde seines Herzens strebt er einfach nur nach Anerkennung und danach, wahrgenommen zu werden. Hauptsächlich von seinem Vater, Silenus, der selbst eine kleine Schausteller Truppe durch die Staaten führt und dem ein mysteriöses Image anhängt.

Hier hab ich mir übrigens den Wikipedia Eintrag zu den "Vaudeville" Theatern angeschaut, die es ja damals wirklich gab. Dadurch konnte ich mir das Umfeld von Silenus Truppe sehr gut vorstellen.

Das Geheimnis, das sich hinter den Vorstellungen der Truppe verbirgt, ist weit größer als George erahnen kann und hat einige grundlegende philosophische Fragen aufgeworfen, die sich die Menschen immer wieder stellen werden. Manches hat mich ein bisschen an Elemente aus Büchern von Michael Ende erinnert (Momo und Die unendliche Geschichte), aber wirklich nur am Rande und vermischt mit noch älteren Mythen war das ein sehr gelungenes Konzept. Allerdings, wie schon erwähnt, hat mich der Autor hier durch seinen ausschweifenden Stil nicht so recht packen können - und auch dass ich einiges nicht durchschauen konnte, war etwas frustrierend. Ich hab gespürt, dass da noch mehr dahintersteckt, konnte es aber einfach nicht greifen.

Trotzdem hatte ich das Gefühl, eher ein Jugendbuch in der Hand zu haben, denn insgesamt hätte ich mir von der Aufmachung des Buches und vom Klappentext her etwas mehr "Horror" erwartet. Das Genre Thriller find ich hier komplett falsch gewählt und würde es eher als Mystery Abenteuer mit mythologischen Hintergründen bezeichnen. Es gibt ein paar Momente, die manche vielleicht als unheimlich bezeichnen würden, aber das war mir defintiv zu wenig. Dafür war alles sehr anschaulich und treffend beschrieben, wodurch ich alles vor Augen hatte, aber das Gefühl dafür eben leider gefehlt hat.

Auch für die Charaktere der Truppe, die alle mit besonderen Talenten ausgestattet sind - so wirklichen Bezug konnte ich zu fast keinem von ihnen aufbauen.

Diese Geschichte hat mich sehr zwigespalten zurückgelassen und ich weiß immer noch nicht so recht, was ich davon halten soll. Ich hab mir definitiv mehr erwartet und hab das Gefühl, beim Lesen etwas verpasst zu haben, von dem ich nicht genau weiß, was es ist... trotzdem hat mir auch vieles daran gut gefallen.

Profile Image for THE BIBLIOPHILE (Rituranjan).
523 reviews75 followers
January 2, 2020
Dreamy-quiet, at times creepy, and also magical, it is a quest to find the rhythms and melody of creation. This book can be read as an 'ode to Art', and RJB with the delicate touch of old fairytales in his narrative conjures a story that is multilayered with intentions, and fluctuates at each turn with its varied set of characters. It is like one symphony of Bach or Mozart that lingers long after the music has faded into memory. At some places it reminded me of The Night Circus with its subtle sense of mystery, and in some it also felt like The Weight of Feathers in its magic and conflicted characters. The elegant writing and suspenseful atmosphere added nuance to the beautiful story that plays with truths, half-truths, myths and folk-lore, hovering in the mind like the delicate elfic tunes of an old ballad that keeps changing its tone and texture with a bittersweet melancholy.

One of the enticing reads I've had this year. The pacing picked up gradually, and towards the end it exploded into a crescendo that was surreall and poetic. The end certainly did justice to William Blake's epigraph before the beginning of the last part, i.e, the third act of the story. I hope RJB writes a novel or a novella on Zephyrus. I loved the characters, and she was my favourite, along with Colette of course. I do hope that Bennett visits the world of "vaudeville" again.
Profile Image for Erik.
338 reviews261 followers
April 5, 2016
I wanted to like this book more than I did. Though the overlying prose is clean and efficient, if not as beautiful or sharp as I would’ve liked, the underlying imagination is a death-trap rollercoaster, a series of imaginative heights not fully connected with the rails of plot and theme.

Case in point: Professor Tyburn, a man of mechanism and wit, the opening act for the vaudeville troop around which this book is centered. He is a puppeteer, yet his puppets need no strings to operate. Rather, they are strangely autonomous and yearn to be freer still. As the book progresses, the Professor grows more and more haggard and complains that the puppets grow harder to control… What follows is an excellently horrific AND human story. Yet its connection to the overarching story is tenuous at best. It serves to push the protagonist somewhere it needs him to be, but otherwise lacks a sense of continuity with the surrounding elements, as if it were a puzzle piece forced by some gargantuan child into a place it does not quite fit.

The problem, I eventually came to realize, was a lack of foreshadowing, or rather a failure to emphasize the foreshadowed elements. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that Professor Tyburn looks at something he shouldn’t look at it and it begins to infect him and turn him dark. That is the explanation given after the climax of his story anyway, yet it feels tacked on. That he looked at something he shouldn’t have is, from what I can tell, NEVER MENTIONED again. Furthermore, even the very first time we see him, his puppets already appear difficult to control.

It’s a shame because so many of the elements in this book, when taken on their own, are wonderful. The meeting of the personified four winds, for example, was wonderfully imaginative. Too bad it had to be weakened by an unearned, tacked-on romance at the end. The depressed, treacherous, and ugly elves are absolutely essential to the plot (and wonderfully subversive!), yet they are pre-referenced in only the vaguest of terms.

Other elements are likewise patchwork too. The lead protagonist, a pianist named George who believes his father is the troop’s leader Silenus, is by far the most boring character in the book. Which is OK. A sort of ‘every-man’ perspective on decidedly supernatural proceedings is a classic technique. Unfortunately, the plot ramps up to an INSANE level at the end. Within a couple chapters, George’s stakes go from, ‘So hey we’re travelling around and I really want to be part of the act rather than just a stagehand’ to ‘I AM GOD’ – no, really. But the plot isn’t really ABOUT George. Not *really.* It’s about Silenus – who is entirely absent from the grand finale!

And on and on and on, but I think I’ve gotten across what I want to get across with my review. It’s like you’re standing on top of a mountain and the view is beautiful. It’s amazing. You want to make a wish and jump off and sail away, like that crazy girl in Crouching Tiger. You don’t, of course, because you’re not crazy. Instead you trek down the side of the mountain and end up in some HORRIBLE LAVA JUNGLE SWAMP FILLED WITH GIANT MOSQUITOS. Die! you yell and proceed to beat them with a pool noodle. A Siamese-twin panther you slay with a blunderbuss. And suddenly you find yourself atop another mountain peak with a beautiful view. How did you get there?! Why did you not see it from that other mountain peak you were at?! You begin to suspect that you are not, in fact, in reality at all. Rather you are dreaming. And thinking that, the stitch and weave of the dream becomes visible to you. You now realize you are in a manufactured world and, knowing that, the view is not as beautiful as you had once thought it could be. Still, while it lasted, it sure was nice.

*Edit note: A year after reading this, I raised my rating from 3 to 4 stars. In the blurry lens of memory, the book's patchwork elements are smoothed out, leaving only some sharp, unique, and wonderful images.
Profile Image for Linda Robinson.
Author 4 books133 followers
February 26, 2012
Admiration for writers who take on the awesome task of explaining the great unvarnished mystery of life runs deep in my reading soul. Life has two departments, according to Robert Heinlein. The Practical Joke Department and The Fairy Godmother Department. That is all. Into the practical joke department are stuffed subdepartments, since life is a bureaucracy set up by a government we never see and that has lost the ability to pay attention to much of anything. Pain, confusion, yearning, horror, sickness, old age, death. The fairy godmother department has never once sent an interoffice memorandum claiming anything, including its own existence. But still there is life, love, pursuit of happiness, and other curiously delightful happenstance. In Jackson Bennett's book there is vaudeville, which has the opportunity for slapstick, dogs in dresses, tragic heroines, moustachioed villains, people with mysterious backgrounds whose life story changes with each telling. The theater, the theater! All the world's a stage. Such a rich production design is possible. The author has the chance to playwright, to bend reality from the boards, keep us glued to our seats as we examine the intricacies of those two life departments, on the playbill as Good and Evil. But he doesn't stick to the script. He takes us out of the theater, passes us as we sit in our seats, wondering what the heck just happened. It's a little eerie to be abandoned in the middle of the book, as our guide, the author, wanders off into a netherworld that might have been terrifying, if we weren't preoccupied trying to figure out where we, the audience, fit into this story.
Profile Image for Lee Foust.
Author 7 books148 followers
February 9, 2014
A novel for the information age. Although the plot, characters, and the appropriately ineffable mysteries of the supernatural all seem more or less in place here, I have never in my life experienced a more bland and workmanlike prose style. It's like looking at a black and white reproduction of a Van Gogh. If only a sportswriter had written this. Don't know if I'll make it through.

Didn't, in fact, make it through--around 110 pages it started getting sillier and, well, what with the somnambulistic prose, I had to give up--rare for me, but I have too many books I want to read right now to dally with morphic first grade primers.

If one of my creative writing students wrote prose this bland I would personally escort them to an opium den, to a whorehouse, to a circus, for God's sake--anywhere that might wake them up to life and the beauty of language. "See Dick run," just don't cut it, maestro--you gotta have verve to write a good book. I guess this is what we get from a generation raised on Stephen King, the man who lets his readers sleep through page after page without ever missing anything.
Profile Image for Joseph.
676 reviews85 followers
October 2, 2014
George Carole is 16, a talented pianist, and kind of full of himself, despite all evidence to the contrary. He's also, in the Year of Our Lord 1910 (plus or minus, if I'm correct in my math) left home to play piano for a vaudeville show, which he promptly leaves to go chasing after another troupe led by one Heironomo Silenus whom George understands to be his father. George sees the show (saddest & creepiest ventriloquist ever! strangely detached strong woman! exotic dancer! and ... that fourth act that garners so much acclaim but that nobody can ever quite remember ...), manages to get himself hired and begins an odyssey that will take him (and us) from the vaguely disturbing to the deeply horrific to the downright mythic, through shabby theaters in small Midwestern towns and other, more debatable (or no longer extant) places as he discovers exactly what Silenus' Troupe is really up to and what forces are drawn up against them.
Profile Image for Gatorman.
560 reviews65 followers
August 13, 2013
A wonderful fantasy tale from Bennett, who once again proves how underrated a writer he truly is. This story of a traveling vaudeville troupe with a secret mission to save the world from dark forces grabs you from the very first page and never lets go. The characters have such life to them you feel like you are in their world. The plot moves along, never boring, and written with a style and flair that works perfectly with the events unfolding around us. If you haven't read Bennett before, it's time you did. He has yet to miss. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Sarah.
422 reviews23 followers
October 4, 2013
Holy macaroni I'm FINALLY DONE!!!!!!!! WORST and most boring book I've ever read. Didn't get good until the last 75 pages.
Profile Image for Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews).
601 reviews202 followers
February 10, 2012
You may also read my review here: http://www.mybookishways.com/2012/02/...

At 16, George Carole was raised by his grandmother, has never known his mother or father, and has been traveling with a vaudeville troupe, playing piano rather wonderfully. He has a good idea of who his father might be, and has been trying to catch up with the Silenus troupe, if only to catch a glimpse of the man that could possibly be his dad. He finally manages to catch up with them and catch a performance. He’s enchanted, especially with the beautiful acrobat Colette, and fascinated with Silenus. After leaving the performance, he encounters the grey men (seriously creepy), who also seem to be after the Silenus troupe, but for much different reasons than George. It’s when George attempts to warn the troupe of the grey men’s presence that the real adventure, and terror, begins.

See, George has a little something special inside of him, and it’s part of what makes him so valuable to Silenus and his troupe, because the troupe is much, much more than just a vaudeville act, as George will soon discover. The Troupe is, at its heart, George’s coming of age story, but it’s also a far-reaching magical epic. Set in a time when vaudeville and minstrel shows were popular, and horse and carriages still lingered, The Troupe is a book that you want to read without distraction, because there are quite a few big ideas in play. Don’t let that scare you. The author manages to weave horror elements (wolves in human clothing and the grey men), with not so traditional fantasy elements (some rather terrifying fairies), and even southern gothic into a rich tapestry that you’ll want to savor, bit by bit. There is a song that was lost when man and earth was created (The First Song), and Silenus’ troupe has been gathering bits of it back together, in hopes of saving our world. Each town they stop in becomes just a little bit better when the troupe sings this haunting song. If the song is entirely forgotten, the rips that have already appeared in the fabric of our reality will get bigger, and very, very bad things will begin to come through. George has some of this song inside him, and throughout the book, it becomes clearer and clearer just how important George is to our world.

George will frustrate you, and you’ll fall in love with him at the same time. He’s just a kid, who sometimes fancies himself much worldlier than he really is, and is painfully naive. For someone so young to shoulder such a huge burden is enormous, and much of the book is about George learning just how to do that, as well as getting to know the father he never knew. Silenus is a force of nature and his command of his troupe and relationships with its members is also a very big part of this novel. Many elements of the Silenus troupe are strange and terrifying, such as Kingsley the puppeteer and his rather creepy, otherworldly puppets, and some are beautiful, such as the dancer Colette and even Franny, who lifts objects that no one her size should be able to lift. Silenus’ silent and gentle companion Stanley (who communicates via chalkboard) is a joy, and the interplay between the troupe members is subtle, intricate, and sometimes heartbreaking, as is Silenus’ rough, fierce love for his troupe. As George learns more and more about his place in this frightening new world, and also of the delicate balance that the troupe helps maintain, he also realizes what’s at stake, and losing the song may mean losing everything he cherishes. The author has a gift for atmosphere, mystery, and imagery, and manages some jaw dropping twists that I didn’t see coming. The Troupe was as much of an emotional journey as it was a fantasy for me, and I cherished every bit. Haunting, terrifying, and achingly beautiful, The Troupe is a book to be savored, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Molybdenum.
18 reviews4 followers
July 19, 2012

Up to this point I`ve read two books by Robert Jackson Bennett, and based on those as well as the blurbs for the two others, (one forthcoming) and I would classify him in the well known and popular genre Metaphorical Mythology.

I didn`t like everything about The Troupe, (I could have done without the whole Four Shepherds subplot) but the things I did like absolutely blew me away. It`s a book that confronts the darkness that is always around us and we choose to ignore. The darkness is hard to explain, so I`ll let Mr. Bennett do it for me:

"That fear that comes from the feeling that there is you, and then there is... everything else. That you are trapped inside of yourself, a tiny dot insignificant in the face of everything that could ever be."

But the book does not focus on the darkness. Because the answer to the question on how we deal with the darkness is "We distract ourselves." And that is the message of the book. We don`t worry about everything, because we have our lives.

Also touched on is the role of entertainment. Once again, I turn to quoting:
"For what better gift did the creator give us than the ability to release, and relax, and allow ourselves to be taken to lands unseen and undreamt of with the crude components of performance?"

The framework is simple, entertainment is an essential part of the distraction from the darkness that pervades the world. And that just scratches the surface of the metaphor that Bennett is able to build.

And all this is done using a story that is entertaining, has well realized characters, and acts as a bit of a history lesson to the forgotten world of vaudeville. This book has elements that I believe would appeal to everyone, and I have a hard time imagining the person who would not like this book, even without the metaphorical subtext layered within it.
Profile Image for Terri Wino.
663 reviews60 followers
July 11, 2015
Hmmm. I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. Part supernatural, part fantasy, a little horror, and a depth and sort of message I never expected going into it.
Yes, it's the story of a troupe of performers and the story of a boy trying to forge a relationship with his father, but I was surprised at more than one point in the story when things were not at all as they seemed.
I did feel the story dragged a little too much and could have been shorter without changing the impact of the tale. Overall I enjoyed this book and have to say that the last 100 or so pages really stirred some emotions in me that I was not expecting at all.
I recommend if you like epic journeys that are less about the destination and more about the road getting there.
Profile Image for Tudor Ciocarlie.
457 reviews215 followers
April 26, 2012
This is by far the best horror book I've read in the last couple of years. What shines in it are the characters: the bad ones are absolutely terrifying in their darkness and weirdness, the good ones are heartbreaking in their suffering and the grey one are fascinating in their convoluted morality and their need for redemption. This is the american response to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and its almost as good as Susanna Clarke's novel.
Profile Image for Gwen (The Gwendolyn Reading Method).
1,616 reviews479 followers
May 30, 2015
Really liked the beginning and the end of this. The middle was a little weak for me. and the wolves just weren't very menacing to me. But the fairies were dang scary, for sure. Overall, I liked it, but I wasn't head over heels for it.
Profile Image for Jon Recluse.
381 reviews245 followers
September 23, 2013
An incredible fantasy tale, filled with genuine thrills, chills and heart, a refreshingly original vision by a writer to watch.

Highest recommendation.
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