I was almost immediately sucked in by Bennett's writing alone. He writes with that ineffable magical quality that makes it a joy to read the words alone, sans plot or characters. The addition of plot and characters does wonders as well. :)
The first scene alone had me smiling ear to ear, knowing this was a great choice...
"George has quit!"George finally catches up to the Silenus Troupe and the first thing he does, not really knowing what else to do, is buy a ticket to their show. He quickly finds out that the troupe's reputation is deserving as the first act is a puppet show...but he can't see the strings? and what's with the creepy backdrop? did it just change?
"What?" said Victor, the second chair cellist. "George? Our George?"
"George the pianist?" asked Catherine, their flautist.
"The very same," said Tofty.
"What kind of quit?" asked Victor. "As in quitting the theater?"
"Yes, of course quitting the theater!" said Tofty. "What other kind of quit is there?"
"There must be some mistake," said Catherine. "Who did you hear it from?"
"From George himself!" said Tofty.
"Well, how did he phrase it?" asked Victor.
"He looked at me," said Tofty, "and he said, 'I quit.'"
Everyone stopped to consider this. There was little room for alternate interpretation in that.
"But why would he quit?" asked Catherine.
"I don't know!" cried Tofty...
George delves deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the troupe, but he's met with additional mysteries the more he finds out, the creepiness of the troupe being the least of his worries. Plunging into Bennett's imagination is both terrifying and thrilling.
At one moment I was scared out of my mind, laughing the next, and constantly (and terribly) curious the entire time. The mysteries of both the troupe and the world to which we are introduced, both similar to our own and different at the same time (not only because of the time period), are boundless and absorbing.
Bennett not only writes about magic, but his writing itself is imbued with magic and a bit of humor and even a little darkness. To be mentioned in the same breathe as Neil Gaiman would be no stretch of the imagination. The Troupe may just be the best book of 2012.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)