Shoestring is a dark and thrilling adventure about a travelling group of performers and a dangerous pair of gloves that threaten to ruin the lives of the main protagonist and those he calls family and friends.
Shoestring has left his days of street crime behind. He no longer prowls the streets with his gang of bandits looking for thieving opportunities. Instead he has joined the Troupe of Marvels and is about to perform in the premiere before heading off on tour. He is the star act, performing on his invisible rope high above the ground.
The future is looking promising for Shoestring but then a cursed pair of white gloves reappear and threaten to ruin everything. These are the same gloves that caused KidGlovz so much trouble and they were meant to have been destroyed long ago for they can only bring calamity, catastrophe and disaster. The gloves can bring you your deepest desires and Shoestring can not resist their pull. But the gloves are pulling him towards a terrible end and his life is in danger.
It is eerie. It is mysterious. It is magic. There are twists, there are turns, there are delightful moments, there are chilling moments. There really is plenty to savour in this read. The story is told through two voices. Most of the story is told in third person narrative. The other voice is that of Metropolis the Macaw. His voice provides much of the back story to previous events that tie the past with the present. Metropolis’ words are written in bold so you know when the macaw is telling the story. The black and white illustrations are exquisite, and are beautiful and chilling in equal measure. The illustrations of Marm are truly frightening and there is something very uncomfortable about the cursed gloves.
The character’s pasts are woven seamlessly into the present and influence the future. The characters themselves are deep and complex. You really feel like you get to the know the characters well and each one is unique, both in the talent that they have and their personalities.
Themes of family, friendship, ambition and temptation are prevalent throughout the narrative. The theme of temptation is powerfully explored through the gloves. And as Shoestring discovers, temptation combined with power is a dangerous thing. He can’t resist the pull of the gloves and steals everything from physical items to talents to his best friend’s mind. Despite his ill-fated deeds his troupe never give up on him and are desperate to help him. But their desire to help pushes Shoestring further away as he becomes increasingly influenced by the gloves. The lengths that the troupe go to to save Shoestring are a fine example of what family and friends will do to help someone.
I love the whole travelling performer thing. Carriages travelling along roads and the performers performing in the towns that they arrive at. No destination, just going where they feel, often determined by the toss of a coin. This book captures the mystic and magic of a travelling troupe, the close bonds that are formed and how those bonds can be so easily broken when one puts themselves above others. The magic is a delight; twins who are able to read minds and can contort into all manner of positions, a macaw that can predict the future, musical geniuses, card tricks and a high wire act.
There is a book that precede this one, which I have not read. Whilst reference is made to previous events enough detail is provided so this can be read independent of the other.
A read that is set to enchant and will capture the imagination of many a young reader.
Recommended for 8+.