I have read and taught Dante’s Inferno several times. I’ve dug deep into the story, the language, and the history behind it. So when I stumble across a variation of the story, I will make a point to read it. I got The Ninth Circle for free on the kindle a few years ago, and the Kindle lottery system I use put this one as my next read. It took me only a few hours to read it, but I can’t say I recommend it.
The story follows Dan as he runs away from home to join the circus. I don’t mind coming-of-age stories, but I really couldn’t relate to Dan. I didn’t like him as a person. And most of the circus people weren’t fleshed out enough. They were thinly written, and I didn’t really care about most of them. Some had sad backstories, but as Dan travels through the circles of Hell (more on that later) we didn’t spend enough time with the characters to really connect with them. By the time I was nearing the end, I realized that I could have not finished and been just fine never knowing what happened. I just wasn’t into the book.
And although this is connected to Inferno, it really isn’t as well tied as I had hoped. Yes, Dan travels through circles, as indicated by the chapter titles, and in each circle we meet a new circus performer who is in his or her own version of hell. But even without this link to Inferno, the story would have been just as thin. The author, Brendan Deneen, is known for his comic books, and I have actually read a few of them and really enjoyed them, but this book just wasn’t for me.