The Carnival of Lost Souls

Laura Quimby, Abrams/Amulet, $16.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8980-1
Quimby's entertaining if slight debut offers homage to Houdini filtered through the lens of traditional fantasy tropes. Twelve-year-old Jack, a diehard Houdini fan, has bounced his way through the foster care system and seems to have finally found a good home with a professor. However, the professor, whose name Jack doesn't quite catch, actually sold his soul to an evil magician named Mussini 50 years earlier, and has taken Jack in only to sacrifice the boy in his stead. Now trapped in the Forest of the Dead with the other members of Mussini's traveling magic show, Jack is forced to use his skill with handcuffs to entertain audiences of dead people even as he plots his escape. Quimby stumbles with her adult characters—Mussini is a classic mustache-twirling villain who appears to be evil for the sake of being evil, and the professor's manipulation of Jack is never reconciled with his otherwise moral behavior. Her ending is largely unsatisfying as a result, but Jack and his fellow prisoners/performers are fun characters to follow. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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