Readers often pick up a good book to escape from the real world and lose themselves in wordy forests of fiction. In Laura Quimby’s debut novel, “The Carnival of Lost Souls,” 12-year-old protagonist Jack Carr really does get lost in a forest, and it’s all thanks to his knack for escaping. From handcuffs.
Nicknamed the “Handcuff Kid” by his kooky new foster father, Jack is an instantly likable character who wishes to follow in the mysterious footsteps of his idol, the greatest escape artist of them all: Harry Houdini. However, when he is unwillingly sold to the magnificent but cruel magician Mussini, who walks the delicate line between life and death, Jack struggles through numerous lethal challenges before coming to the conclusion that there are more important things in life than sleights of hand and wondrous illusions.
Forced to perform life-threatening tricks in Mussini’s carnival in the Forest of the Dead, he also discovers the first real family that he has ever had. Bad timing, maybe, but better late than never. The downside? Some of them are already dead, and if he stays with them too long, he won’t be far behind.
This suspenseful novel mixes a gold mine of supernatural danger and colorful characters, as well as short but touching hints of a budding romance. While some may find the unexplained illusions a little on the unbelievable side, “The Carnival of Lost Souls” is overall an exciting, chilling tale, perfect for kids in the lower tier of the young adult age group.
“The Carnival of Lost Souls: A Handcuff Kid Novel” is due to be released in October by Amulet Books.
— Katie Guyot will be a sophomore at Free State High School.