Gr 4-7--John Claude Bemis's debut novel (Random, 2009) draws on Southern folklore and American tall tales to present the story of Ray and his younger sister who ride an Orphan Train south from Maine. Ray thinks his sister might fare better alone, so he jumps from the train and sets off on his own. He meets up with an eclectic group of performers in a medicine show. Ray realizes that this troupe is running from an evil entity--the Gog--who wants to capture the Siren, a mermaid-like creature whose voice mesmerizes all who hear it. It's never made clear how the Siren will help the Gog build a machine, better than the one John Henry destroyed, that will allow the Gog to spread darkness throughout the world. While the book is overly long and somewhat difficult to follow, narrator John Mayer is marvelous, infusing the sharply drawn characters with distinct personalities and drawing listeners into the tale. There are so many dangling plot lines, that there is no satisfying conclusion.--Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA[Page 60]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.