An adolescent boy is abducted into a world of secrets and addictions by a magical circus while his mother suspects something is masquerading as her son in Jordan's (The Drowned Detective, 2016, etc.) coming-of-age fairy tale.
It is a fairy tale: the carnies and roustabouts of the traveling circus are the last fey, reduced to surviving off mortals' emotions, and hiding their superhuman abilities in plain sight. Mona, who can fly, poses as an aerial dancer...and "adopts" a British youth who falls through the cracks of the carnival's Hall of Mirrors. Andy—or Dany, as his name becomes in the circus—is a boy like many others save for his close relationship with his mother, Eileen, a suburban housewife in a troubled marriage. As Dany adjusts to the carnie life under Mona's tutelage and learns the carnival's dark secrets, something else has exited the mirror in Dany's place...and now calls itself Andy. Eileen struggles to understand the seeming changes in her son, rationalizing them as adolescence and puberty, but she is haunted by memories of Andy's unusual birth. Though the tale builds slowly, progressing in a parallel haze of Dany's state of uncertain enchantment and Eileen's growing unease, it comes to a visceral head with the revelations of Dany's origin and a villain whose delightfully macabre presence will leave the reader reaching for some bug spray. However, the showdown between Dany and his foe is over too quickly, and the story sinks back into a languid emotional remove. Jordan's at his best when exploring the dark history of his circus fey or when detailing the quiet miseries of the supporting cast; our hero feels less Real Boy than a reactive cipher, muffled by cotton candy.
Still, spun sugar is tasty, and there's much here to like.