Reviewer John M. Alleman: John holds
a bachelor's degree in Philosophy from the University of West
Florida. His literary interests are numerous and eclectic, with a
special affinity for environmental ethics and
Authors: Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin
I would recommend Juggler in the Wind because of that metaphor alone—and it just so happens that elements of magic, mystery, and oddity effectively put hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry on top
Authors: Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin
Juggler in the Wind is the first installment of married couple Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin’s Wand Bearer Trilogy. The story follows a fourteen-year-old boy named Randy Carmichael who lives in a small town in Kansas. Randy is the son of single-mother Faye. According to his mom, Randy’s dad left for work at an oilfield while Faye was pregnant, and never came back.
When a third-rate circus sets anchor in Randy’s town of Buchanan, he feels compelled to visit—this isn’t mere curiosity: Randy feels as if he’s being called to Circus Olympus. The only obstacle that stands in his way is his mother who forbids poor him from going.
At school, Randy can no longer resist the compulsion to see the town’s new attraction. He skips class and spends his only five dollars to gain admission to Circus Olympus. All in all, the experience was less than enthralling, but when Randy finds himself lying down that night, he feels urged by some unknown force to visit the circus again before it packs up and moves out. What starts as a bid farewell unexpectedly becomes a night’s sleep as a stowaway in the back of a circus vehicle.
After being discovered and becoming enlisted as a roustabout, Randy gets plenty of time to get to know this odd troupe of circus performers while his mom worries franticly where exactly he is and when he’ll get home. The more time he spends with Circus Olympus, the more Randy realizes that these performers are a bit overly abnormal—possibly supernatural.
Perhaps the troupe’s idiosyncrasies begin rubbing off on Randy, because he begins having rather odd experiences—dreams in which he talks to a godlike being, encounters with strange animals with silver eyes, the discovery of a hidden talent, an oracle’s prophecies fulfilled.
When I first heard about Juggler in the Wind, I approached it with mixed levels of anticipation and trepidation. Though I don’t fit the criteria for the demographic of fantasy for young readers, I still hold in high esteem accomplished writers in the class for their ability to blend traditional literary genres, to fabricate three-dimensional worlds with well-rounded characters, and to weave a tale with powerful and imaginative narrative. However, a story about a kid who runs into a circus full of Olympian gods almost sounded like a cheap convergence of Percy Jackson and Cirque du Freak. Still, I had to give it go, and I’m pretty content that I did.
While some of the attempts at humor (like the conversation Randy overhears when he is found by some of the circus roustabouts) fell a little flat, and there was a time or two when I had to consciously suspend my disbelief (like fourteen-year-old Randy’s complete obeisance and sensibility toward his mother when forbidden to visit the circus), these flaws are only surface scratches buffed out by the skill taken to envelope the entire story in a shroud of mystery and eccentricity as well as the careful treatment of Randy’s coming of age.
Most reviewers of Juggler in the Wind have been raving about the strange and mystical events that occur, and it’s just as well they should, but what captured me was Coleman and Perrin’s treatment of Randy’s existential revelation. The metaphor that analogized Randy’s sense of identity as one in a state of perpetual becoming to the continual motion involved in the act of juggling struck me as true, expressive, and original. I would recommend Juggler in the Wind because of that metaphor alone—and it just so happens that elements of magic, mystery, and oddity effectively put hot fudge, nuts, and a cherry on top.
I look forward to the next two installments.