I am thrilled to host an award-winning YA fantasy author, Jennifer Renson. I read her fantasy novel Carousel in one gulp.
After living in the countryside for years, Princio returns to his
homeland, the tiny yet prosperous Kingdom of Lucca, upon the orders of
his dying grandfather. Living alone in the annexed building next to the
palace, Princio is discovered by the kingdom’s chief doll maker,
Feletti, who purposely withholds his knowledge of Princio’s past in
order to gain his trust and friendship. Princio believes Feletti to be a
true friend until he meets Marian, a girl with a penchant for cooking
and a natural curiosity, and their chance meeting in the kingdom’s
carousel sets off a series of events with the potential to change
everything. As Princio, Marian, and Feletti’s dark secrets begin to
unfurl, their lives slowly come to light – as love hangs delicately in
Every fantasy realm has its roots in a particular ethnic tradition. Lord of the Rings
is rooted in Norse mythology. Jennifer Renson draws her inspiration
from the comedia dell'arte aesthetics. I have not seen many fantasy
tales set in southern Europe, so I am delighted to a fantasy novella set
in pseudo-Romanesque universe. You have Feletti, an enigmatic,
pseudo-demonic doll maker/puppet master, and Marian, his creation. If
you are a fan of The Nutcracker, you probably will compare
Feletti to Drosselmeyer. The whole concept of a doll coming to life is
archetypal and universal. (For a brief moment, I had a flashback to
Ridley Scott's Bladerunner.) There is a touch of the Pygmalion myth, the creator falling in love with his own creation.
Masks are a running motif.
Interestingly, it is a romantic hero who believes himself to be ugly and
therefore hides his faced underneath the mask. In the western
tradition, it is the female who suffers from the body dysmorphic
disorder. Although, there are several timeless tales of a deformed male
with a noble soul. I guess, the western world can accept a deformed hero
- or one who perceives himself to be deformed - but for a woman, being
anything less than doll-like is unacceptable. Hence, the prevalence of
BDD among western women.
There are references to various
Christian holidays and Catholic practices. So while this is not a
"Christian" or "inspirational" fantasy, it is a fantasy set in the
context of Catholicism. The Pope and the Catholic church provide an
esthetic backdrop. The tone is not evangelical in the least.
I adore how boldly the author flirts with the traditional fairy-tale
archetypes, turning them topsy-turvy and rearranging them. The author's
clean, innocent, forward "once upon a time" narrative makes the novella
accessible for younger readers yet sophisticated enough for older
readers. I would be delighted to see it as a graphic novel. I can only
imagine what a gifted illustrator could do with all the rich imagery.