Susan's Reviews > The Palace of Laughter

The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley
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Sep 24, 07

bookshelves: juvenile
Read in September, 2007

As much as it saddens me to say this, I can't give this book as good a rating as I'd like. If it were possible to give half stars, it's really a 2 1/2 star book, and it's a shame because it started off brilliantly. Miles, the protagonist, is hiding in a barrel with a stuffed bear named Tangerine and spying on a mysterious circus. The creepy circus element had so much potential, because isn't everyone just a little bit creeped out by clowns anyway? Throw that in with the orphan boy-makes-good plot line and it has at least the hint of a good story to come, but this book has too many spectacles going in too many rings. By the end of the book we've enountered lost angels, a phantom (talking) tiger, and uncovered a convoluted brainwashing scheme, not to mention a strange almost post-Apocalyptic gang of hoodlums that sound like the younger siblings of the crazy people from the Mad Max movies. It almost feels like the author felt compelled to make the book long in hopes that kids might take that into consideration along with the fanciful, colorful jacket and mistake it for a fantastical tale along the lines of a Funke or Rowling creation. The difference is, Rowling and Funke's plot twists rarely feel so gratuitous. In the end, only a forced deus ex machina moment is able to bring all of the bizarre events to something resembling a resolution, and we never do really figure out what the real story is with the tiger. There is something about the boy and his bear that moved me, but I'm afraid there's too much confusion to make it a good bedtime read-aloud (as a serial-type tale) for younger kids, and I think like older kids would be old enough to feel there's not enough payoff for the effort. It seems this is the first book of a series and I can only hope that the next installments improve on what has been begun here.
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Elizabeth Wallace Wow, that really summed it up.


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