Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin,
The Wand Bearer I: Juggler in the Wind
(Chiron, 2010)

A teenage boy lives with his mother in the small town of Buchanan, Kansas. He is clumsy, a bit socially awkward and withdrawn, but very bright and a dreamer. He also likes to build stages and props for the drama club. Life is OK, albeit somewhat boring. Then the circus comes to town. You don't want to read about a boy running off with the circus to find adventure? Trust me: you might want to read this one.

Why? Well, the book starts as the simple tale of a restless, bored boy who is drawn to the circus, but there are several factors that elevate the story. Why is his mother miserable? Why does she seem afraid of this particular circus? Why is he drawn strongly to it? Why does the boy's mother, who usually gives him pretty free rein, forbid him to leave the house while that circus is in town? How was that one amazing trick, involving a local farmer, accomplished, amongst all the other acts that are mediocre at best? Who are these circus people really?

All of these questions eventually get answered -- except the last one, which is still a little uncertain by the end.

Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin are a husband-and-wife writing team that definitely know what they are doing. There are no slow spots in the 216 pages of this book; the surprises come steadily but fit together coherently. The characters and settings are described well, and both Randy Carmichael, our protagonist, and his mother undergo definite but credible development as the story progresses. The supporting cast contains no stereotypes (archetypes, yes, but not stereotypes), and all are depicted in ways that make them interesting and believable. The word usage and choice are complex enough to challenge the reader, without seeming forced or pretentious.

What was the end result of the positives cited in the above paragraph? Once I made it through the fairly mundane story setup, of about 10 pages, I genuinely had trouble putting this book down. I am an avid reader, but not a fast one. But I did not want the story to end. Now, I avidly await the sequel, titled Star Road.

My only quibble with this book has to do with a quote at the very beginning, before the tale begins. I wish I had not read that quote, as it gives away too much of the mystery of the book, of the story behind the circus performers. I think there are enough hints in the story for the reader to gradually figure out what is going on, and I believe I would have enjoyed that puzzle-solving aspect. I still enjoyed this book greatly, but that 99 percent of perfection would have risen to a 100 percent score without that quote.

book review by
Chris McCallister

4 December 2010

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