Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mumbo Jumbo Is My Speak

Published: April 15th, 2011
The Mumbo Jumbo Circus (Mumbo Jumbo Circus #1)
By: Jane George
Red Willow Publishing
ISBN-13: 9781936539086

If you enjoy stories by Diana Wynne Jones & J.K. Rowling, you're in the right neighborhood. Look over there. Magic. Mystery. Mayhem. The MUMBO JUMBO CIRCUS...

When the enigmatic Ringmaster asks 15-year-old Evanja (Evan) Leane to run away and join the circus, she says yes. Anywhere’s got to be better than foster home Number Eight. Evan learns that this ragtag circus, a haven for throwaway teens, relies on more than spectacle and illusion. This circus is built on magic. Each of the teens possesses a donvrai, a true gift, that manifests only in the presence of the Ringmaster’s mysterious Ju-Ju. Unlike many of the other teens who must wait for their donvrai to emerge, Evan’s gift surfaces on her first night: she can read horses’ minds. This would be totally awesome except she has been deathly afraid of horses since foster home Number Three. But circus is a dying art. If Evan wants to save her beloved new-found home, she must concoct a brilliant horse act that will bring in the crowds. And she’d better get over herself and get on with it fast; there’s a traitor close to the Ringmaster who will stop at nothing to make sure she doesn’t succeed.

     Evan is foster care child, bouncing around from home to home pretty much ever since she was born.  There have been good placements and bad ones, but this latest one (number eight) is pretty much the worst.  So when she is called a freak and then says the magic words, Evan is approached by Compere, the Ringmaster of the Mumbo Jumbo Circus, about becoming part of the traveling show.  That is when the adventure starts, because the circus possesses magic that Compere's Uncle, owner of a rival circus, will stop at nothing to possess.  Not to mention the Ju-Ju gives donvrai, true gifts, the power to express themselves.  Evan's gift is that she can speak to horses by reading their minds - problem is she's terrified of them.  But with a traitor among the ranks and a devastating loss of something key to the show, it might be up to Evan to save Mumbo Jumbo with her amazing act.  Along with help from the Pickled Punk (the Panhandle Prophet), the elephant boy, the Circus' teenage cook and some illusionist shifting polar bears Evan might be able to do something important and find something even more special along the way - a family to call her own, ragtag as they may be.  I have almost no experience with books set in circuses, magical or otherwise.  The closest I can come to that is The Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando.  I got a lot more than I expected.   
     Jane George has a gift with words and from the very beginning when Evan is being knocked around by her hillbilly foster parents, she painted a picture that was so real I could see it in my mind.  Once she meets up with the Mumbo Jumbo folk and gets caught up in their problems and joys, there really is no turning back.  There is a budding love triangle between Evan, Wally (the cook) and Johnny (the elephant boy) but it is very tame and it becomes quickly apparent who she actually has feelings for.  The everyday struggles of a dying circus, the camraderie between the performers and the magic of the show itself definitely cam across in technicolor for me as a reader.  Evan's wonder is easily shared and I became very invested in the fate of the circus and everyone involved in it.  The addition of the talking elephant Solly, and the jarred but sassy, prophetic Pickled Punk (another term for a human fetus preserved in formaldehyde and used for a sideshow attraction), the polar bear shifting Nanurark family and a host of other colorful characters only added to the richness of the story.  The plotline involving the evil uncle, Shock Jacques, could have been less stereotypical but it never fell too far into predictable villain tropes to be truly annoying.   The revelation of what the Ju-Ju actually was fit perfectly into the setting of the story and was hilarious.  Overall, a wonderful coming of age tale set in a magic circus that I would love to visit.  Definitely one of a kind! :)
VERDICT:  5/5  Stars
*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available online in ebook format, or maybe even at your local library.*


  1. Hi,
    I hope you don't find this too strange or intrusive. Your blog came up on my alerts, and I wanted to thank you for the lovely review. You reveal just enough!

    The second book is out and introduces a new character, Dante. I'm working on the third book, which will be Chandi the Tiger Girl's story.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. :o)

    Jane George

    1. I'm excited to hear that Chandi's story is next! I actually just read Dante's book and will be reviewing it in the near future. It has been exciting to read a YA circus book that has that magic to it. Thank you for writing such awesome books! :)

  2. That's wonderful, thank you!

    Best of luck with your blogging. Back to work now with me. :)



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