Review: The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

October 28, 2016
Review: The Motion of Puppets by Keith DonohueThe Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue
Published by Picador on October 4th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Thanks to Picador for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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The Motion of Puppets is a darkly enchanting tale based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  I really enjoyed this.  To be frank, I was completely intrigued.  The author spins a tale that is compellingly horrifying and, well, I just couldn’t put it down.

The story starts off with a newlywed couple.  To an extent they come across as an unlikely couple, Kay is a performer, currently holding a position in the Cirque as an acrobat and her husband Theo is an academic, a little older than Kay and usually with his head in a book.  And yet, the two of them are in love.  They’ve found that special something that just works for them and they’re happy.  Until one evening, when Kay, after having finished the evening’s performance, accepts an invitation to go for a small soiree with some of the other artistes.  Of course one drink leads to three and soon enough Kay is walking home alone, wary of footsteps that seem to be echoing in her wake.  She spots a light on in a window.  It’s the toy shop that she’s been strangely fascinated with, especially the old puppet in the front window.  The shop has never been opened before and dashing in for cover Kay doesn’t even consider the oddness of a toy shop being open in the early hours of the morning when the streets are dark and everyone is asleep in their beds.  Of course, Kay is never seen again and Theo becomes the prime suspect of the police.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot.  However, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Kay has been transformed into a puppet.  She now lives in the ‘back room’ of the toy shop with an odd assortment of other puppets that all come to life between midnight and sunrise.

Where do I start!  The strange world of the toy shop.  A dusty and quiet place, now home to the strangest collection of puppets ranging from a Queen to a Devil.  They all abide by the rules set by the owners – otherwise known as the ‘giants’ in fact they are their own enforcers in that respect.  Every now and again one of the puppets is taken to perform and occasionally that puppet might never return.  I love the way the author has set the scene for this story.  There’s a certain olde world feel to everything.

The cast.  Kay as a puppet is such a conundrum.  Like the rest of the puppets she is slowly losing her sense of self and in one respect she isn’t unhappy although she does remember being in love.  She’s a puppet and as such she performs and of course performing makes her content.  All of the puppet characters are slightly sad in much the same way – sad and yet resigned.  Some of them have little snippets, stories of a former life that now feels more unreal than the life they now have.  Providing they behave they have no real fear and some of them have been in the back room for so long that they remember nothing from their lives before becoming a puppet.  Then we have Theo who is frantically searching for Kay.  The police are on his case as is his mother in law!  They suspect foul play  Theo’s only friend is Egon, a dwarf who works on the Cirque. He believes Theo and wants to help him.  Then we have the giants.  Usually their arrival comes with a sense of tension and fear – and yet, they love these puppets – the come across almost like doting parents at certain points – which is sort of creepy.

So, what hooked me about the story.  Firstly the style of writing.  This isn’t necessarily a fast paced story but the writing is lovely and as I mentioned it evokes a different feel to the one being portrayed.  A modern day fairytale almost.  It has a totally mixed feel about it.  Horror – but not visceral horror – there is nothing bloodthirsty at work here.  It’s the simple horror about what happened to Kay and the others and I admit the whole transforming Kay into a puppet chapter gave me the chills.  Frightening indeed.  Plus puppets.  Puppets are just plain scary.  Then there’s the tension, which was cranked high.  Theo always seems to be one step behind – it’s just so frustrating watching him grasp at straws as he tries to find out what happened to Kay.

Did I have any criticisms.  Not really, especially whilst reading.  I think that if you’re expecting answers then you may be a little bit disappointed but if you fancy just falling into a dark and captivating tale then this could just be for you.

A creepy, enchanting, horrifying, mystery.  With puppets.

Lynn Williams
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