Arina reviews The Ballad of Perilous Graves, the debut Fantasy novel of Alex Jennings, published on June 21st, 2022 by Orbit.
Alex Jennings‘ The Ballad of Perilous Graves breathes the life and music of New Orleans into a vibrant story filled with mirth, magic, and creepy haints.
Thank you Tracy from Compulsive Readers for organizing this blog tour, and Orbit for the ARC! Check out the other bloggers on tour for more about the book:
|Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy
|Date of Publishing: June 21st, 2022
|Page count: 450
In a fantastical version of New Orleans where music is magic, a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this vibrant and imaginative debut.
Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women keep the order, and where songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Far Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician, Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. Then the rhythm stutters.
Nine songs of power have escaped from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat and without them, Nola will fail. Unexpectedly, Perry and his sister, Brendy, are tasked with saving the city. But a storm is brewing and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end.
“That’s the thing about music, about a symphony: destruction, war, peace, and beauty all mixed-up, ya heard?”
Full of wonder and wonderfully clever, The Ballad of Perilous Graves tells the story of a magical city pulsing to the lively beat of Jazz and Blues.
When nine foundational songs are preyed upon by dark forces, Perilous Graves and his little sister Brendy team up with go-getter Peaches to fight a malicious haint and stave off the spirit Storm threatening their home.
Meanwhile, Casey, a trans man just returned to New Orleans, searches for his missing cousin as he grapples with the changes both within the city and himself. Though told through separate POVs and timelines, with flashbacks peppered throughout the story, these narratives come together to embody a place that is entirely magical.
Entangled in a web of shared history and identity, our characters build up a sort of coming-of-age journey for all ages, every page a tribute to a charismatic cast of characters and the dazzling city they call home.
Nola is a character in its own right—vibrant, colorful, unforgettable. New Orleans is very much its sister city, but by experiencing it through Casey’s eyes, we also get a realistic dissection of this city in modern times.
Nola’s veins are fueled by art, a colorful city filled with music, graffiti, and the uncommon. A city where sky trolleys offer exciting rides to people from all walks of life. Haints, zombies, and p-bodies (those enchanted by the hypnotic paint of graffiti tags) are commonplace, and the city bursts to life with a song at every corner (sometimes, even a living one).
Full of allegories and contrasts that honor the power of artistic expression and weave the whimsical and somber together, the story parallels the dangers of a childhood adventure with the struggles of adulthood. Good and evil gather here, and magic can take all sorts of forms, whether it be the haunting personification of all storms to ever hit a city or a pianist so talented his ghostly fingers can make anyone get up and dance.
I didn’t quite agree with the slightly jarring shifting POVs all the time, but this is a story full of soul, imagination, creativity, and heart, with all the necessary elements to draw in a fantasy lover. It’s got danger, passion and friendship, and a strong sense of community and familial devotion built on the foundations of gripping worldbuilding.
If you’re looking for the type of fantasy that celebrates its distinctions from more common stories, pick this one up. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is a heartfelt love song to a city and its people. Truth be told, I fell in love with both.