The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley

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The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: This still didn't quite match the brilliance of the first book in the series, but with energy, wit and warmth such as this, this is the rare thing - a final book in a cycle you didn't really want to end.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847384447

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I shall start with a word of advice. When you're being hounded by a circus master, and a magician, for the soul of a tiger that's contained in a tiger's egg that's contained in the brain of your teddy bear, and your best friend - a fallen angel - is trying her best to make sure the other angels do not turn on you in a big way - then you're probably living the third book in a fantasy trilogy. Still - never mind, the angel's efforts will involve you entering a dream world of flight and cloud cities, the chase after your enemies will take you across the world to desert oases and back, and friends new and old will be on board to help.

I was surprised to see this heralded as the third in a series of three, for I was always suspecting a lot of twists and turns yet to come, and major developments in the planning of our hero's destiny. So it was a surprise to hurtle briskly through the first few pages, then the resulting air voyage, then the resulting desert travails, so quickly, while not having the hoped-for depth to the intrigue.

That said the journey, slight as it may appear, is still very finely told. I love the language here, as in books before. The subtle humour, which can launch you into a big laugh without any forewarning, plays on word games, the unexpected direct advice from the narrator, such as I attempted with my opening paragraph, and more. The warmth of the language allows us once more to engage with the scenes, scenarios and drama as far too few children's titles do.

And soon we do settle down with the gut-wrenching, jaw-dropping facts of the story, and the hero Miles we've grown to love so much gets closer and closer to his destiny and the truth surrounding his background. I suppose in the end I can accept the fact we lose the intimacy we had with him as the boy living in a barrel that he was at the start of The Palace of Laughter, and just be privileged we had his tale told by this teller.

At best this book is warm, dazzling, vivid and energised. At its worst it only loses one of those qualities, so I do acknowledge four and a half stars might sound mean. My quibble if any would be similar to the ones I had with the first sequel, The Tiger's Egg, that the balance of mundane and unusual, spectacular and recognisable, was not quite as finely poised as the superlative original.

Still, this is never formulaic, and remains, to quote a chapter title, a gem in the porridge, even if the shocks of old were less evident. If I didn't get quite the final chance to have my mind blown by Jon Berkeley here, I'm glad the future looks so bright for anything else he has yet to offer us.

I must thank the kind Simon and Schuster people for my review copy.

For more dazzling fantasy with a taste of the wacky, we fell in love with The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson, and suspect you and yours would too.

Buy The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley at

Buy The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Lightning Key (Circus Trilogy) by Jon Berkeley at


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