Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan (Book Review)


Neil Jordan

Format: Hardback

General Fiction | Fantasy | Magic

288 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication Date: June 6th 2017

Magical storyteller Neil Jordan steps into the realm of fantasy–for fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

It looked like any other carnival, but of course it wasn’t. The boy saw it from the car window, the tops of the large trailer rides over the parked trains by the railway tracks. His parents were driving towards the new mall and he was looking forward to that too, but the tracery of lights above the gloomy trains caught his imagination . . . 

Andy walks into Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors, and then he walks right into the mirror, becomes a reflection. Another boy, a boy who is not Andy, goes home with Andy’s parents. And the boy who was once Andy is pulled–literally pulled, by the hands, by a girl named Mona–into another world, a carnival world where anything might happen.

Master storyteller Neil Jordan creates his most commercial novel in years in this crackling, cinematic fantasy–which is also a parable of adolescence, how children become changelings, and how they find their own way.

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Carnivalesque is one of those books that draws you in for the mystery that surrounds it. Not having read author Neil Jordan’s books before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first began reading this story. Nor was I sure if I would like it. If I even did like it while I was reading it. Yet, I kept reading, somehow still intrigued despite my uncertainty of it.

With shorter chapters but longer worded paragraphs, the story moved at a much slower pace than what I’m used to reading. But even with that slower pace, I found it to be well-written and compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. The characters were interesting and the fantasy aspect of the story kept me focused on the events that were happening even as I wanted to take a step back from them.

Unexpectedly, I found myself doing a push-pull kind of read with this book. Constantly asking myself: Did I like it enough to keep reading? Did I dislike it enough to stop? The entire book, I kept thinking I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I wished I was, but then I found myself turning another page and reading it to the end. Which eventually led me to the end of the whole book and that made me appreciate this book far more than I expected to at the start of my reading of it.

Carnivalesque is a truly interesting kind of read with unique characters and a surprisingly mesmerizing storyline. No matter how many times I wanted to put the book down, I found that I couldn’t because I had somehow become invested without any conscious desire to do so. It entertained without being over the top or filled with unnecessary sensationalism. Honestly, it reminded me of the classic literary authors I loved as a kid. The kind of stories that sweep you up in these grand, everything-in-its-time tales of fantasy and adventure, with danger and mysticism all around.

Really, really enjoyed this one.

4.5 Stars

*Finished copy provided by Publisher*

About Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan was born in 1950 in Sligo. His first book of stories, Night In Tunisia, won the 1979 Guardian fiction prize and his subsequent critically acclaimed novels include The PastSunrise with Sea MonsterShade and Mistaken. The films he has written and directed have won multiple awards, including an Oscar for The Crying Game, a Golden Bear at Venice for Michael Collins, a Silver bear at Berlin for The Butcher Boy and several BAFTAS for Mona Lisa and The End Of The Affair. He is an Officier of the French Ordres Des Artes et Lettres. He lives in Dublin.


Praise for Neil Jordan

“The author’s words flow with poetic cadence, conveying the light and dark sides of fairy tales from long ago. . . Fans of Jordan’s The Drowned Detective (2016) will be entranced by this fantastical coming-of-age chronicle.” –  Booklist

“This new work from director/author Jordan is a house of mirrors, reflecting and distorting Celtic fairy tales to reveal new dimensions to timeless stories. Jordan’s seductive narratives are unmatched in modern literature, although many will recognize parallels to Oscar Wilde, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, and Neil Gaiman.” –  Library Journal

“Poignant. . . . It’s an entertainment, a pageant, a whirl of colourful characters and vividly realised events, to be enjoyed” –  The Guardian

“Jordan’s at his best when exploring the dark history of his circus fey or when detailing the quiet miseries of the supporting cast. . . there’s much here to like.” –  Kirkus

“[A] novel-length dream . . . Inside this menacing, dripping, mist-bound urban landscape, Jordan takes care to give us a story and characters that aren’t cut loose from the quotidian elements we recognize . . . [Jordan] knows how to pace a story — an uncommon gift these days . . . His writing is quick and supple.” –  New York Times Book Review on THE DROWNED DETECTIVE

“Ghostly and mesmerizing, its narrative unreeling in a nearly hypnotic fashion, yet overlaid with a powerful sense of inevitability. A striking blend of mystery and Hitchcockian romantic suspense.” –  starred review, Booklist on THE DROWNED DETECTIVE

“Jordan shows his strengths as a writer in the terrific dialogue and atmospheric imagery.” –  Publishers Weekly on THE DROWNED DETECTIVE

Deanna | OkieDreams

Deanna Lynn has been a substitute teacher, a baker, a website designer, a ceramic artist, a business co-owner and a sales and marketing manager for a ceramic shop in Oklahoma. She reads widely, laughs often and loves to talk about writing, books, and this confusing thing called life.

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