The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett. Orbit £8.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn
Teenager George runs off to join a vaudeville act in small town USA, with the greater intention to find his father, Silenus. George has strange memories of when Silenus last visited, of the vaudeville act that Silenus managed … and especially of the intoxicating music. They do meet, of course, and soon George becomes part of Silenus’ troupe – and learns secrets about the way things are, the way the world works: the magic behind creation. But dark forces are out to stop the song that holds it all together…
With all these elements, I was sure to be hooked, drawn in to this novel. Alas, I wasn’t. I read the first section (around 150 of its 480 pages) pretty quickly but then my enthusiasm waned. For sure, the concept, the ideas are intriguing. But great ideas don’t make a great novel on their own. It just didn’t grab me. I found the narrative too loose and in my opinion a thorough edit to tighten the text, to make the story taut, more dynamic, would have made all the difference. Maybe because of that I didn’t find the characters convincing enough to wonder over their fate. All of which left me somewhat disappointed. This is a real pity because there is so much potential in The Troupe.