Audiobook Review: The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

7 01 2013

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Read by Luis Moreno

Recorded Books

Length: 18 Hrs 10 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: The Troupe is one of the very few fantasies that I was completely enthralled with from the mysterious beginnings to its bittersweet end. It reminded me that there is magic still in this world, whether it’s in a song, or the touch of a loved one and most importantly within the pages of a well told story. You needn’t be a fan of Fantasy to find the joy and the magic in this wonderful world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created.

Grade: A

Note: This week I will be featuring books that I choose to listen to based on reviews and “Best of 2012…” posts by my fellow bloggers which I will be linking at the end of this post.

Stephen King once wrote that "books are a uniquely portable magic." This has always been true for me. I have lived a pretty stationary life, living the majority of it within the 50 miles of the place of my birth. I have yet to travel outside the country or even much past the Mississippi River. Yet, books have opened the world to me, and even better, other worlds both real and fantastic. As a child, I found just as much magic reading about a lone family crossing an iced river on their way to finding a new home on the prairie, as I did from a little girl entering a brand new world through a dusty old wardrobe. Yet, now that I’m older and much more experienced I find that reading doesn’t always have the same sort of magic as it did for me as a child. I think this is due to a combination of changes in me as well as a change literature. Magic is very often the line between Fantasy and Science Fiction, yet, much of the Fantasy I have read has given magic an almost functional feel. Magic becomes a process which practitioners access almost like a scientist in a lab. While I can appreciate this approach, I also feel it sucks some of the whimsy out of the genre. No longer is magic in a song, or present in the wind, but a force to be tapped through careful procedure. Magic serves a purpose, and is something that is there to serve a person or society, not to be experienced for the simple joy of the impossible. Yet, occasionally a book will remind me what it felt like to be a child, what it felt like to believe that that door may lead to somewhere grand, defying everything we think of as real. For me, The Troupe was one of these experiences.

George Carole is a young pianist who has run away from his small town in search for a mysterious Vaudevillian Troupe run by Silenus, a man he believes to be his father. Yet, when he finally caches up with The Troupe it doesn’t go as he expects, and he finds himself on the run from a strange danger and enlisted in an impossible quest by this callous man. The Troupe is everything a good fantasy should be with magic permeating every word. Every step you take with George on this journey opens new fantastic doors, unleashes strange new dangers, and broadens the scopes of you imagination. The heart of this story is Bennett’s brilliantly conceived characters. In many ways, you will feel like you have met them all before. There is the young orphaned boy with a special talent, a jaded and uncaring mentor, an exotic love interest and a mysterious disabled man, and as you meet each one, you can’t help but think, "Hey, I know them. I know their journey." Yet, you don’t. No character is what you expect, and each is explored in such depth, as Bennett tells you their secrets and explores their motivations. Each of their journeys touches all of your emotions, making you angry, sad and joyous all within the scope of a singe paragraph. What is simply beautiful about this story is I feel that Bennett has grounded this tale is so many recognizable tropes that is tickles the memories of each reader based on their own experienced. For me, The Troupe reminded me at times of everything from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus to Walter Moer’s Zamonia, even with touches of Horror Authors like King and Matheson. It’s not like these authors are influencers of Bennett, just the magic he reveals can’t help but remind your own individual magical experiences. For me, who is traditionally more of a horror guy than fantasy, Bennett also offers some of the most chilling moments I have experienced in a while. Right now, I can’t thing about puppets without getting a bit nervous, and I have always loved puppets. The Troupe is one of the very few fantasies that I was completely enthralled with from the mysterious beginnings to its bittersweet end. It reminded me that there is magic still in this world, whether it’s in a song, or the touch of a loved one and most importantly within the pages of a well told story.

In the beginning, I was a little under whelmed by the performance of narrator Luis Moreno. The early part of this novel was awkwardly paced, and there were some strange, overlong pauses throughout the production. His reading was relatively minimalist, yet as the audiobook progresses, and as each character became more and more real to me, Moreno’s narration filled out. I think that at some point Moreno found the character’s voices. More than just tone and cadence but essence. There was one scene where Collette, a dancer with an exotic back story deals with some ruffian types while playing pool, and then interacts with George that really stood out to me as a true moment in the audiobook where narrator and story blended together to capture the mosaic that the author was creating. Also, the character of Stanley, a mute who communicated through writing on a chalkboard started out pretty generic, simply a reflection of George reading his words, then actually began to gain a voice of his own. I think that Moreno had a pretty solid grasp on George and Silenus from the start, but when he began to capture the personalities of the others within the troupe did this audiobook really takes off. The Troupe is a must listen in my opinion. You needn’t be a fan of Fantasy to find the joy and the magic within this wonderful world that Robert Jackson Bennett has created.

What Others Have Said:

I first heard of The Troupe through Rob H. Benford on Twitter. Rob featured The Troupe in his 2012 Review post as well as his SFFWorld review.

Dave, from The Audiobookaneers my cohorts in SFF Audiobook love, listed The Troupe as his favorite audiobook of the year, and posted his review. 

Bookworm Blues listed The Troupe as one of her Top 10 Books of 2012. Check out her review and interview with the author. 

The Little Red Reviewer, whose recommendations I always value, told me that “If you are going to read one new-to-you author this year, make it Robert Jackson Bennett.”

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3 responses

7 01 2013
Guilded Earlobe review « Robert Jackson Bennett

[…] The Guilded Earlobe gives The Troupe an A! […]

7 01 2013
Redhead

The Troupe was SO good!

7 01 2013
BarkLessWagMore (@FMMFC)

You always find and review the best audios I can’t wait to find a copy of this for myself.

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