This dark novel follows Dan, a 16-year-old runaway. With an alcoholic dad, a mom who barely acknowledges him as her child, and an abusive older brother, who can blame him for running away?
Dan finds refuge with the circus, specifically with the Ringmaster, who takes him on as an assistant. Dan looks up to his new mentor, this father figure in his new life. But not all the freaks with the circus want him there, and they make it obvious.
Though he is sixteen, Dan has lived a sheltered life and often seems younger than his actual age. Until, it seems, it comes to women. His attraction is apparent, his inexperience and naiveté obvious.
I like the dark feel of this book, with its references to sin and delving deeper into the nature of sin, which is based on Dante's Inferno. Also intriguing are the supernatural elements.
The characters are three dimensional, and we get a good feel for each of them, even though the narration is from Dan's point of view. After Dan begins to get ensconced in the day-to-day activities of the circus, each chapter is almost its own story within the novel, focusing on Dan's encounter with one circus freak, revealing more about that character and how Dan feels toward him or her.
Though the author didn't pinpoint the time period, the novel isn't set in modern day, where every man, woman, and child has a cell phone, which is a good thing because that would have changed the entire mood of the novel.
Overall, I like this debut prose novel from Brendan Deneen, but there are questions I still have and characters I want to get to know better. I think fans of classic horror or dark fantasy will enjoy the novel as much as I did.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
[I originally read this book in April 2014. I am in the process of transferring my blog contents.]