Review: Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan

513hoits6tl-sx316Title: Carnivalesque
Author: Neil Jordan
Published: 23rd February 2017
Rating: 3/5 stars

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Summary: To Andy and his parents, it looks like any other carnival: creaking ghost train, rusty rollercoaster and circus performers. But of course it isn’t. Drawn to the hall of mirrors, Andy enters and is hypnotised by the many selves staring back at him. Sometime later, one of those selves walks out rejoins his parents – leaving Andy trapped inside the glass, snatched from the tensions of his suburban home and transported to a world where time performs acrobatic tricks. And now an identical stranger inhabits Andy’s life, unsettling his mother with a curious blankness, as mysterious events start unfolding in their Irish coastal town…


*I recieved a free eARC of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.



Carnivalesque is the story of a boy who finds himself trapped inside a mirror at a carnival whilst his reflection walks away and infiltrates his life. The concept of this book instantly captured my attention as I thought it sounded magical. However, I found it wasn’t quite as enchanting as I’d hoped it would be.

Andy, the main character, of this story, soon finds himself caught up in the carnie life. He becomes friends with a girl there named Mona and learns about this completely different world to the one he’s used to. This is a coming of age story for him, he figures out what is to grow up and distances himself from his family. And, although I could empathise with what Andy was going through, I couldn’t connect with his character, or many of the other characters in this novel.

Another character who I found interesting was Andy’s mother, who is troubled when her ‘son’ returns home from the carnival and begins acting differently. Her thoughts and reactions to what was happening in her family’s household were believable and contrasted the light mood of Andy’s experience with the carnival. I can’t help but feel the majority of the characters were distanced from the reader, but a part of me also wonders whether this was done on purpose.

“He went through the mirrored entrances and sometime later, it could have been minutes, it could have been hours – his parents would later punish themselves with worrying over the fact – quite a different boy walked out.”

This was an atmospheric and whimsical novel which was something I loved. The wonderful description of the mystical carnival world,  which Andy found himself in, was my favourite aspect of the story. Neil Jordan did an amazing job at building a beautiful setting and capturing the mystery that the carnival entailed.

However, the writing was at times too whimsical, leading to unnecessary information being given to the readers and a weak plot. Things became confusing at times and I sometimes struggled to keep up with what was going on. It’s disappointing that some concepts were well explored whereas others weren’t explored enough. The plot itself was slow, with plenty of build up but little action. Not much actually happened in this book outside of Andy and his mirrored self exploring their new freedom. And, although I did enjoy this, it wasn’t quite enough to keep me hooked on the story.

The ending was redeeming and I felt it was a satisfying conclusion to the novel, as it highlighted some of the magical but darker elements to the story. Although this book had lacking characters and plot, the overall atmosphere of this book did ensure that this book was still enjoyable.


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