Mystery, magic, and mythology collide in this rambling novel, which launches the Wand Bearer trilogy. Narrator Randy, 14, follows voices calling him to the Circus Olympus, which sets up near his Kansas hometown, despite his alcoholic mother's insistence he stay away. Determined to learn the secret of the circus and his mother's aversion to it, Randy joins the troupe—a ragtag bunch of performers who he later learns are thousands of years old—when they leave town, and acquires a sudden talent for juggling. A cloaked stranger with horns and a carved wooden wand appears to Randy on several occasions, apparently in his dreams; eventually Randy passes a life-changing test in a sequence in which the stranger assumes the guises of three threatening beasts. Randy discovers long-buried secrets about his past and his relationship to the stranger, but other answers are left for later books. The combination of a circus environment with elements of ever-popular Greek mythology has potential, but heavy-handed imagery, undue repetition, and extraneous minutiae weigh down the story. Ages 12–18.