Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Bootlace Magician

The Bootlace Magician
by Cassie Beasley
Recommended Ages: 11+

When we last met Micah, the grief of his grandfather's death was still fresh, and his future at the magical Circus Mirandus was wide open. Now "String Boy," as the other magicians at the circus call him, has progressed a bit in learning the kind of magic he can do, starting with tying knots that hold memories. There's more to knot tying than that, he learns. He may be able to make and unmake connections at a much deeper level of reality. Plus, he can do things with string and rope while barely touching them, or maybe even not touching them at all. It just seems like he won't figure out what to do with his magic on time to help save the circus, and everyone he cares about, and maybe the world, from the evil grandmother he has never met.

Micah's second adventure with the Circus Mirandus is even more loaded with new and wonderful magic than the first. He learns things about unicorns, dragons and one particular, very special fish that could make a huge difference. He witnesses devastating attacks by a powerful enemy. He finds out about the terrible powers, and limits, of some of the other folks at the circus. He uses a magic mailbox to communicate with his non-magical best friend back in the town of Peal. He struggles with powerful and, in some cases, destructive feelings and with a sense of responsibility for things far bigger than himself. And he learns to accept the love of a very different kind of family from the one he started with.

Cassie Beasley is the author of Tumble & Blue and Circus Mirandus, to which this book is the sequel. With this book, I've now read all three of them, and I hope she writes more because she's very, very good. Building a well-paced, emotionally compelling story within an immersive, original world of magic seems to be her thing; she's been nominated for two Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards and though neither of those nominations was for this book, I don't consider it a lesser achievement. I was moved within by it, cared for the people in it, enjoyed the fun they enjoyed, and felt my guts twisted by the ratcheting tension of such passages as the fancy-restaurant lunch Micah shares with his monstrous grandma – surounded by people going about their day oblivious to the danger in their midst, and unable to make a sound or a move against her. Until he does, after which all hell breaks loose and you just have to hang on by your fingertips until it's over. Kids deserve books like this; adults should feel privileged to get to read them, too.

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