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The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley
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The Palace of Laughter

by Jon Berkeley

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The main characters are Miles, an orphan and Little, a Song Angel. Miles lives in a barrel just outside the town of Larde. He awakes one morning to find that a circus has set up in a large field below the hill where he lives in his barrel. He goes to investigate and finds himself rescuing a little girl with wings (Little) from the ominous circus. Together they set off to find her friend Silverpoint and the story takes many encounters and plots from here.
I like this book, it has a lot of different characters (some fantastical like the NULL while others have human personas) with their own dilemmas and yet it doesn’t become too complex that you cannot follow and enjoy it.
Miles’ character is that of a kind, hardworking, honest boy who survives the best way he can so that he does not have to return to Pinchbucket’s orphanage. Until Miles rescued Little, his only companion was Tangerine, an orangey (dirty), little teddy bear that was given to him as a baby; Tangerine is always tucked inside Miles’ jacket and gave Miles the feeling of comfort.
Little’s character is that of a song angel (from a higher place than Earth), a song angel that can feel the song (inner spirit) of any creature, through this sense she can feel their pain or joy and she has a calming effect upon those around her. Little also has the ability to heal through singing the song of the beings spirit, however if she sings her own song she will lose the ability to be an angel and become a human trapped on Earth.
Little is also a little naïve about Earth and how the populace live and act, as she came to earth by accident when following Silverpoint (unbeknown to him), who is now missing.
Along the journey to find Silverpoint, Miles & Little encounter a large tiger (somewhat arrogant) who helps them get to the Palace of Laughter where Silverpoint has been abducted and supposedly entranced.
It is your typical journey plot, where they know the destination, but travel is hindered by various interactions that test, but develop the travellers to become more ready for the encounter at the final destination. Miles & Little complement each other and by the time they reach the Palace of Laughter they are firm allies to take on the evil Cortado – ringmaster of the circus, the main villainous character.
Cortado, the evil ringmaster is seeking to abolish laughter and harvest its power for his own devious means, essentially he wants to destroy happiness. As the circus travels through each little town, townspeople are offered free tickets to the Palace of Laughter (a giant clown like statue – tent venue – hard to create imagery) for the show of their lives. Cortado and his right hand man, Genghis (yes he is huge and unfriendly) has developed a tonic that entrances people and frees them from laughing. It is at the Palace of Laughter that the audience are given the tonic and leave none the wiser that they are free from laughter.
It ends with the usual resolution where good triumphs over evil, however Miles and Little’s lives have changed; Miles learns about his beginning and Little has to make a new beginning on Earth as she can never return to her higher world.

The Palace of Laughter was enjoyable, it allowed me to make connections throughout with other storylines. It has engaging concepts such as friendship, kindness, evil vs good, a talking tiger, circus characters, a kindly lady and a scary, hairy being (the NULL) who needs kindness.
I will definitely be reading the next 2 books in the trilogy ( )
  rata | Feb 6, 2016 |
I liked this, The main characters Miles and Little were likable and the plot moved along nicely. I got that bereavement twinge upon finishing the trilogy so it must have been good. :) To sum it up...pleasant, sweet, interesting. ( )
  fannb | Feb 5, 2016 |
An interesting setting and plot, and many of the details were facinating. But there wasn't much mystery to it, and after about 100 pages I put it down. I didn't really feel that I had to know what was going to happen. ( )
  Inky_Fingers | Oct 30, 2012 |
Miles is an escaped orphan living an unremarkable life in a barrel outside of the town of Larde. Unremarkable, that is, until he rescues a tiny girl with wings from a sinister circus and embarks upon a long journey to help her fiend a missing friend. Along the way they run into all sorts of unexpected troubles, friends and...tigers?

I picked this book up for three dollars at the grocery store. To be fair and honest, I had few hopes for it, assuming the quality of the text was proportional to the price and location. So imagine my surprise when I picked it up and was almost instantly engrossed by the story of young Miles and his companion Little! For future reference friends, I would like to take now to point out that price and location have virtually nothing to do with the quality of a book, seeing as how many craptastic books there are for more than a little money and, I'm sure, more than a few in the other categories. Price tags are less telling than covers. I will forever hold this lesson in my mind.

Moving along, as I am wont to try...oh! Somewhat possible spoilers here.

As previously mentioned, I was easily taken in by this book. Miles is a very straightforward boy, and we meet him as he is getting up and around to find some food. He works for what he gets, and cleverly manages to take that and make it into a proper meal. We see he is an honest boy, as well, because though he sneaks into the circus uninvited [how else would a homeless kid see it?], he knows that something is wrong for poor Little, bound and locked up in a wagon. And we get to see him go on this journey with very little to gain from it, other than assuring himself that Little's task is done and she remains safe. I like Miles.

Little is a bit of an interesting creature. She is not just any child with wings. She is an angel--a song angel, part of a heirarchy I cannot begin to understand [partly because we only get a very small glimpse of it]--who has come to earth on accident when following her friend who is now missing. She is unaware of the way things work on earth, unaware of humanity and it's many...facets. Little is sweet, but because she is essentially a higher being, there isn't as much to connect with as a character. In a way, she serves as a reminder that all around us is wonderous, all of the bees and birds and plants and animals, and in this she is a success. She is pleasant simplicity and laughter, things often missing from journeys and lives.

It is your basic journey plot. They know where they are going but, for one reason or another, are unable to get there like all of the others. They must walk and meet people along the way, learning and gaining and losing so as to emerge on the far side grown and prepared for the final battle, as it were. And while, no, you don't see any obvious growth or change in Miles' character [aside from a haircut, but you'll have to find out about that from the book!], you see him stepping into his roll as Little's friend and guardian when it comes to the dangers from the trip and the villain.

And the villain? An evil ringmaster seeking to destroy free laughter and harness its power for his own devious means. I'm not even kidding. He's kind of awesome in his overall unpleasantness, an unsympathetic power-mongering bad guy who wants to, in the end, rule. How can you like a villain who wants to destroy, essentially, happiness?

I don't know, but should this book ever become popular, there will be those who try. Someone will humanize him. Give him a broken past from a broken home that warped him into what he has become today. Bah humbug.

On the whole, The Palace of Laughter was a lot of fun. Apparently it is Berkely's first full-length novel, and I would not have thought so while reading it. The plot is appropriately intricate, so as to allow connections throughout, and also allow the reader to wonder here and there about someone that seems to have been forgotten but shows up when needed. I think that this book will be a favorite for any number of children who partake of it, with danger, journeys, friendships and tigers. Give it a go. I'm pretty sure I'll be investing in the other two books of the trilogy at one point or another. ( )
1 vote LeslitGS | Mar 8, 2010 |
This one kept me reading. ( )
  bethanie336 | Jun 29, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jon Berkeleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dorman, BrandonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060755091, Paperback)

Miles Wednesday, orphaned, unwashed and living in a barrel, has never been to a circus before—but then the Circus Oscuro is no ordinary circus. There's a strange beast called The Null and an array of sinister-looking clowns, and when an unusual little girl with wings falls from a tower during the performance, Miles's life is changed forever. As Miles and Little embark on an extraordinary journey to rescue two friends who have been captured at the Palace of Laughter, they discover nothing less than the power of friendship and the gift of family.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Orphaned eleven-year-old Miles Wednesday and his companion, a Song Angel named Little, are helped by a talking tiger as they set off to find a missing Storm Angel and Miles's beloved stuffed bear, ending up in a peculiar circus where the audience cannot stop laughing.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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