Author: Zeinab Alayan
The life of a puppet master is never ordinary. Oliver Deere knew this when he ran away from home to take up the trade of puppetry, but he had no idea just how much his life would change. After his puppets come to life and flee town, Oliver meets up with a masked girl who hides a mysterious past.
As they travel together in search for Oliver's lost puppets, they find that the line between puppet and master is becoming much less clear - and much more deadly.
When Oliver and his companion enter the strange world of The Parade, they begin to realise that their journey will lead them to discover the truth behind a dangerous villain's path, and in the end, discover more about each other.
While not my typical cup of tea (I do find puppets sort of creepy), I have to admit, this book surprised me. It was far less about the puppets and far more about the characters and their relationship as it evolves. The idea of the Parade was fantastical, original and I totally loved it.
Both Oliver and Sophie were interesting, multidimensional characters who evolved as individuals as well as in their relationship as they travel the Parade, searching for Oliver's lost puppets. Throughout the first 90% or so of the book, there is a great layering of world, hints, allusions and explanation that I found myself really enjoying. I even grew very attached to the puppets as I found each one of them very well developed.
I had two hang ups about the book that keeps it from being a 5-star, one was occasionally odd dialogue and a lack of developed setting (outside the Parade) that, for me, was really irritating. I'm not sure if it was meant to feel like it could take place anywhere, but I couldn't tell if it was Anywhere, England or Anytown, USA, or even Whoknows, Germany. There was just enough detail for me to start feeling like I had an idea of where it took place, then it pulled back or alluded to something that really messed me up. This was particularly irritating at the end of the book. I also had difficulty placing the time--whether it was 1950s or 1800s, I just couldn't quite figure it out.
The second one was that the last 10% or so, for me, lost all of the mystery and the layering. It may even be the last 7% or so, but I went from watching the story unravel and being lead to connections and conclusions to info-dump after info-dump. The subtleties and details were handled so beautifully through the course of the novel that the end, to me, felt like it almost belonged in another book or was written by another person. Disappointing when the bulk was so beautifully handled.
It may be of interest that the book is apparently meant to be an allegory (as evidenced by an analysis included in the back). Since I have zero interest in allegory and political commentary, I didn't pay it any attention, but if that's your thing, it could definitely add a whole new dimension to the novel.
On the whole, though, Puppet Parade is an admirable premier and one that any fantasy-lover should pick up. The characters and the writing as whole have me looking forward to the next thing the author produces.