I would like to thank Netgalley, publisher and the author for a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Justin Fisher is a designer, illustrator and animator, who has taken up his passion for writing and written a book called Ned’s Circus of Marvels. It’s fresh from the print and is supposed to be a children’s book, yet at some points it was a bit complicated or not enough was explained for me. You can watch the trailer for the book here.
This book is about an ordinary boy named Ned, whose life turns into an extraordinary one, when on his thirteenth birthday he is suddenly being chased by crazy and creepy clowns and the boy learns that mystical and magical things are real. He joins a travelling circus, because that was his father’s wish and Ned learns things about himself and his family he would have never guessed. It turns out, he is not just an ordinary boy.
I have to start with a disclaimer – this book was not at all what I expected and I didn’t like it. Not one bit. But the not liking part is very subjective, because I wouldn’t say that the writing was bad or the characters weak, I just didn’t like it and I will explain some of the reasons in the following paragraphs, but honestly, the very, very main reason was that the book didn’t speak to me and didn’t enchant me and just wasn’t made for me.
When I saw the beautiful cover of this book, I new that I wanted to check it out. There’s just something about purple covers – they seem magical to me. And when I got to the description, it talked about a boy and his mechanical mouse, as well as a witch, and together they will have to try to save the world and… I was enchanted and thought it will be a magical journey and it will be my new favourite book. Yet it’s not.
After reading it I felt cheated. Not for one moment it felt like it was Ned’s circus. I didn’t even understand why he was singled out, because most of the main heroes had a big role in the main adventure. They might have been ‘just helping’, but to me they kind of seemed a lot more important than Ned. The adventures of the three (Ned, mouse, witch) I imagined… never really actually happened. There was always someone else present and it … ruined the mood? Ruined the feeling of adventure? My disappointment about the description not fitting the real thing was huge!
The first part of the book was very confusing. As our protagonist Ned didn’t know much about the other – magical world, the reader also wasn’t given much, so it left me in a game of guesses – trying to understand what was what… And it is not a nice feeling, reading that something can happen or should happen, or someone can do something, without any knowledge of how, with what or why.
Around the middle of the book, the reader gets some more information and everything seems to be fine for a while and even exciting, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the world was not built well. There were magical creatures who seemed to have characteristics of beasts made by many other authors or creatures similar to mythical beings, yet most of them had new names or new properties in this book and although they or their skills, or looks were mentioned in the book, they were never described properly. Which meant that I couldn’t remember what was what, when it was mentioned the second time and I became a confused mess, because details like that are important to me. And Ned didn’t actually join the circus in the sense I was expecting – he was just in the circus tent together with the rest of the circus folk.
Clowns was a major turn off for this (actually – any) book. I don’t like clowns and I don’t think there’s any clown that could be turned into a magical being or turned into a bad character and still be cool. But that is my opinion only.
I didn’t like that in this book, the explanation of the magical world was started by telling the reader that the things, monsters, creatures in the shadows that children can see – actually exist. I am fairly sure that if someone would have told me that when I was a child, I would still be sleeping with my lights on. For one, of course, I am glad that children are cool with it (as you can see in the reviews in the author’s page), but I wouldn’t have been. And surely you might think that it is only one small part and doesn’t really mean anything, but I still have some childhood trauma’s from such little slips that left me with nightmares and fears for months.
Some plot holes seemed to be present, but I wouldn’t be really sure of it because, well, I felt like a lot of things weren’t explained clearly enough, which means that something might not have been a mistake – just a part of a thing that hasn’t been explained. I would have loved some more explanations of how exactly the skills of Engineer and Medic work – what are the rules for their powers.
And I constantly got annoyed at protagonist for forgetting important things and details – too many times and too convenient for the story development. Alice’s attachment to Ned also seemed rather weird, because we didn’t see much of her, but that’s just a tiny detail.
I don’t know, if ‘steampunk’ is the right word, but that is what this book with all the tinkering and mechanics made me think of. Unfortunately, as I mentioned already, I didn’t like the book and it wasn’t really as much the books fault as it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I had imagined a completely different thing after reading the description and, if I would have known the type, I probably wouldn’t have read it at all. I was thinking for a while, if I should give it one or two stars, but I had such hard time and a lot of unexplained things that I gave it one star on my goodreads page.