The circus just appears. Everything about it is extraordinary. But what is really going on? This book is a remarkable, imaginative achievement. There’s no ‘Ah, I can see what’s going to happen next’. I bet you won’t. Layers and layers appear. And you are gently drawn through them, in turn dark and dazzling, as you follow the different lives of this wonderfully woven story. One page is worth sharing…’stories have changed, my dear boy.” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognise for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise.

Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there’s no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”

Widget sips his glass of wine, considering the words before he replies.

“But wouldn’t that mean there were never any simple tales at all?” he asks.

The man in the grey suit shrugs, then lifts the bottle of wine from the table to refill his own glass.

“That is a complicated matter. The heart of the tale and the ideas behind it are simple. Time has altered and condensed their nuances, made them more than story, greater than the sum of their parts. But that requires time. The truest tales require time and familiarity to become what they are.”

This still speaks to me. It’s a beautiful encapsulation of our times – good and bad no longer as Hollywood and Disney would like to portray. Maidens not needing rescuing. Stories overlapping. Who we are. What we are here to do. As a race. And as individuals making sense of our lives. Simple ideas become complicated. And yet they are maturing. Becoming what they are. Perhaps, in fact, these are the messages of the most powerful, oldest stories, but we have yet to fully appreciate and understand them. Perhaps now we are growing up. If you are the sort of person who likes to explore, you’ll love where this book takes you.