John Morressy, |
From the compelling first chapter in which a capricious king orders a juggler's hand cut off, to the last, quietly triumphant page, The Juggler is a dark, meticulously detailed, compulsively readable medieval fantasy.
The strongest portion of the book is undoubtedly the first chapter, which has a tone strongly reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's quirky, macabre short stories -- "Hopfrog" in particular comes to mind. This is not to say that the rest of The Juggler isn't excellent, because it is. The protagonist, a commoner named Beran, has sold his soul to the Devil (as literal and real a figure in the story as he was in the medieval mentality) to become the greatest juggler in the world. Beran's journeys as a master juggler in the Middle Ages, narrated in almost a picaresque style, are carefully painted and convincing. Additionally, the author's note on the historical accuracy of his novel is both interesting and informative.
The Juggler isn't a perfect book; the romance is a little unconvincing, and the ending is somewhat anti-climactic. However, its surprising originality (considering it has two very overused fantasy elements -- a medieval setting and evil incarnate) more than makes up for its shortcomings. After all, how many medieval books can boast of having a juggler as a main character? The Juggler is not a book for younger teens, but the older teen with any interest in dark fantasy or medieval England will find it to be an engrossing read.
by Jennifer Mo