Title: Puppet Parade
Author: Zeinab Alayann
Young Adult/Tween Fiction
Overall Rating (out of 5): 4
Summary: An entertaining magical
adventure that is both satisfyingly
unique and character driven with
moments of emotional greatness,
intellect and excitement.
Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, but every child believes they can make a wish and have it come to fruition. The sad truth is that such can never be. Author Zeinab Alayan however intelligently uses this as the initial force to cause her text to vibrantly come to life.
Sophie, a young woman who has been locked up inside her own room since she was very young (think Hitler’s Daughter by Jackie French), wishes upon a falling star to be released. All her life, Sophie has been told that a sickness which engulfed her body turned her hideously ugly and over the course of the text she is often found wearing a mask to shield the world from looking upon her supposedly wretched face. Ms. Alayan does such an efficacious job at articulating this particular part of Sophie’s character that the readership is unable to imagine Sophie has anything but an internally beautiful young woman. At worse, Sophie does seem to represent characteristics that could make her appear like a prima donna, but she is so genuinely sweet, intelligent, thoughtful, kind and courageous that you cannot help but greatly enjoy her character for the amazing young woman that she is.
Adjunctively, Sophie’s want to not let anyone see her face seems reminiscent of the character Tali Zurah from the Mass Effect Franchise. Tali was a Quarian, a member of a race who were forced to wear suits and masks due to the lacking properties of their immune systems, without which would cause inevitable and almost instant death. Tali was a highly intelligent, resourceful and well trained operative who was also unbelievably sweet, kind and very charming and Sophie’s attitude, not to mention her mask, seem reflective of this completely.
On another note, at the beginning, it is difficult to discern Sophie’s age. For this particular reader, I only realised how old she was not long after she formed a friendship with Oliver, the other protagonist in the story. At this point, before Sophie’s age was unveiled to me, to say that the relationship between Oliver, who had been described as a young man in his early twenties and Sophie, who I believed was younger than she was eventually revealed to be, seemed a little odd.
At the same time, Oliver, a puppet master who creates his own wooden creations wishes for his inanimate objects to be bestowed with life upon noticing the same falling star that Sophie wishes on. One thing I would note however is that Oliver’s voice does not always seem entirely masculine. His character has a very gentle demeanour, along with a formalised attitude that does not always seem to fit the stereotypical male.
Both Sophie and Oliver’s dreams shortly after come true, which inevitably cause them to stumble upon one another that same night after Oliver’s puppets, now very much alive, decide to flee to experience the great wide world. Oliver’s quest to reacquire his escaped puppets is the driving force of the story, with Sophie quickly deciding to join in on the adventure.
The banter between the characters is incredibly entertaining, with Sophie and Oliver’s friendship being reminiscent of ‘will they or won’t they commit to a romanticised relationship’, which is reflective of Bo and Lauren in Lost Girl and Richard Castle and Kate Becket in the self-titled Castle. On top of this, the author additionally articulates feelings the likes of jealousy and attraction which the lead characters do not properly understand as they feel them, yet the readership does. This technique is especially well orchestrated and allows the reader to know things even when the characters do not, emboldening the reader with a great deal of information. This is further exacerbated with the use of the puppets, who, although are wooden creations mind you, provide the text with more humanity, each one embodying a certain character trait, whether that be politeness, religious values, crude humour, violence, et al. Additional emotions the puppets display, from hugging their master, to feeling legitimate fear, loathing, anger or happiness is additionally well executed.
The lead characters, Sophie and Oliver, and the relationship they share, has been very well articulated. Over the course of their adventure, their friendship grows stronger and stronger as they reveal more to one another. Much like in a conversation when a person gasps and giggles in all the right places, the same is done here, Ms. Alayan beautifully conceiving the conversations and revealing hidden truths at all the right moments.
At the same time however, the characters themselves are flawed in their behaviour, which does not seem real at all. On many occasions the characters become shocked by supposedly obscene crude humour and sexual references, which I did not find at all offensive; in fact, they were unbelievably tame and the idea that one could possibly take offense at such sentences is utter folly. This is quite possibly where the text is perhaps at its weakest.
The author appears to have some very loyal views and values and appears unable to be rude or blatantly sexual in her textual nature, instead being considerably polite, sweet and well mannered. This is very admirable; however, in a text where some of the characters are indeed supposed to be sexually rude, this is not furthered with the use of their vocabulary, which maintains a strict PG tone. In a time when texts are more often than not paved with four letter words and often sexual expletives, the fact this one does not require such profanity is indeed a welcome relief, however, at the same time, it is unfortunate that a reader such as myself has become quite accustomed to the indecent swearing found within literature today.
On that note, although the decency of the text works really well, at times I could not properly assimilate into such a world because I had been corrupted by prior texts where that particular author was, on occasion, unable to write a single paragraph without coating every line with vulgarities. Now, I may sometimes argue that a number of these words in texts are unnecessary. Growing up in a country the likes of Australia, where on average, at age three you already know every foul word in the English vernacular and from that moment onwards frequently use such expletives in everyday speech, I have unfortunately become accustomed to having my pieces paved with profanity.
Perhaps in the author’s part of the world swear words do not play such a mandatory role in conversational ideologies and if that be the case, then that is quite honourable and respectful. At the same time, the reason why this text may be self published and not published by a major publishing house is because many an audience outside of the author’s home country may not have been able to thoroughly enjoy the text as much as they should due to its overall genuinely nice nature. If that’s the case, then such is a rather sad conclusion for a text deserving of attention.
The puppet characters too are just as effective in their lines, but at the same time just as courteous. Harold the Hare and Boris the Brutal Bear for instance don’t quite sound the way one might typically believe. I imagined both of their characters having these thick, almost unintelligible accents and yet after conceding this view, the characters began to show other traits; like grinning and smiling, which seemed ill-apparent in the original postulation of such characters.
Adjunctively, on occasion the narrative becomes rather stereotypical of other texts generated today. There often seems to be this implied stigma in texts where women require men to protect them, which seems rather misogynistic as it degrades the female characters and prevents them from becoming the individuals they ultimately should. A number of times the character Oliver unnecessarily reasserts his masculinity by saying how he will protect Sophie’s character, when in fact it is revealed on many an occasion that she can take care of herself. This is reminiscent of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, where the character Katniss is shown to be an incredibly strong willed and capable young woman. Peeta however is seen to hold her back with his borderline chauvinistic attitude when he later emphasises his need to protect her, or, as it so often seems, dominate her. Heroes very rarely need another individual to rescue them, so why is it in texts that often a heroine needs a man to come to her rescue? Women are just as capable as being heroic as men and ought to be able to express their powers of strength and intellect without being overshadowed by dominating men, and at times I thought it would be great for Sophie to venture out from the protective shell that Oliver unnecessarily casts upon her.
Moreover, there are a number of incredibly powerful moments in the text that Ms. Alayan wondrously orchestrates. The few action scenes are well paced and keep your interest from beginning to end, preventing you from stopping even for a fraction of a second. The violence that takes place during these particular scenes is often incredibly blood thirsty and, if anything over-exaggerated to the extent that younger readers should probably be barred from experiencing such content until a more suitable adolescent age. This seems almost ironically contradictory. It feels at times as though the author can barely bring herself to write the word ‘crap’ in her text, but Ms. Alayan has no problem with articulating blood thirsty scenes with rampant violent fighting. This is adjunctively heightened, for instance, in a region dedicated solely to violence, when she meticulously articulates the weaponry used in one particularly gruesome scene, adjunctively using accurate terminology to describe what takes place, all of which is very effectively promulgated.
Moving on, the story begins in the town of Silver Lakeshore, a fictitious community which could be internationally unanimous across a wide number of countries for it is universally symbolic of the stereotypical residential environment. This is a great tactic by the author for anyone in the world can read the text and immediately feel at one with the original textual location before the adventure begins. The story sees the two central characters move from one fantastical realm to another, each land comprised of a central community, dedicated either to religion, scholarly intellect, magic, violence, et al, each one coming equipped with their own unique laws and regulations. These particular lands seem reminiscent of the worlds in Enid Blyton’s the Far Away Tree franchise, each filled with suspense and magical mystery.
Of course, all of this is shrouded by a menacing force located in a desolate region of the fantastical lands. To avoid giving away any plot twists, this reviewer will simply state that the antagonistic force is represented as having powers of persuasive indoctrination, reminiscent of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatches.’ The author does such a great job at developing this evil realm over the course of the storyline with a significant build up of suspense, that Ms. Alayan becomes a victim of her own success, because from this moment on I was hooked, wanting to know more and more about this evil dimension, the information about such a land often being relatively slow coming from its original unveiling.
The ending of the text is something that the reader will in all likelihood not see coming, with a number of very convincing twists that continuously keep one’s attention. At the same time though, there was at least one answer I was longing to acquire that did not seem to be adequately provided.
However, even with this said, by the end of the text I was very satisfied to have had the opportunity to read this unique fantasy novel and to share in the many adventures with the characters. Clearly Ms. Alayan is an author worth looking out for in the future.