I was never one of those kids who wanted to run off and join the circus, but I was always rather fascinated with that gypsy, nomadic kind of lifestyle and the various dynamic elements at play in the carnival life. Who wouldn’t love to travel around the country, meet new people, develop a sort of family with your workmates, and be part of the greatest show on earth?
Author Steph Post’s latest book, Miraculum, comes out January 22, and trust me, this is a book you want to read. I was provided an advance copy by the author so I read this book in October, and I mention that only because this book is still “with” me. I still think about it and passages still come to mind at the most random times. The characters are so vivid, so finely drawn, that they are literally living and breathing right off the page. Even the cover of the book is beautiful!
The story centers around Ruby and Daniel, although all of the carnival-type characters you might expect are there, too. The setting is 1922, Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum, and from the first passage, as Post takes us down the midway with the barker cajoling customers to enter the various tents and freak shows, I was hooked:
“I’ve got the Alligator Lady and the Lizard Man! I’ve got a Giant so tall he can barely fit inside the tent!”
The mysterious, elegant Daniel Revont takes it all in as he walks the midway, and of course so do we.
There’s nothing cliche about Post’s narrative. As the story opens, the carnival is set up near the Louisiana-Texas border and Post makes fine use of the excellent imagery the region provides. The humid summer nights, the warm breezes that sometimes suffocate you, and the midnight blue velvet skies ablaze with stars provide the backdrop for the mysterious events that transpire. The novel is very descriptive and visual with imagery that crackles like the electricity running along the midway.
“Ruby leaned on the warped wooden door frame and raked her dark, tangled hair back away from her face. Already, the early July air was stifling, threatening to choke her if she breathed too deeply. She looked out at the lonely carousel, the garish horses frozen in mid-leap, the remnants of last night’s show, paper cotton candy cones and sticky candy apple straws, strewn beneath their painted hooves.”
Tattooed snake charmer Ruby is at once a sympathetic and intriguing character. The carnival belongs to her father who hires the enigmatic Daniel Revont to replace Jacob, “the geek” who has inexplicably committed suicide in the first pages of the novel, thus setting in motion the events that bring Ruby and Daniel together (and not necessarily in the way you might be thinking.)
I loved both of these characters so much and Post’s writing brings them both to life in a way that stays with you. There are other characters to love: the vulnerable and beautiful January, the lead dancer in the Girl Revue; Hayden who painted the ceiling of Ruby’s wagon as well as the sides of the circus wagons, and even Samuel, the mysterious right-hand man who works with Ruby’s father.
Steph Post is an exciting writer to keep your eye on; I love her Judah Cannon series which in fact have nothing whatsoever to do with a circus but are set in contemporary Florida which only shows Post’s range and capability as a writer, in my opinion.
I’m not going to give any spoilers or tell you how this all unfolds, but just know that this book deserves a spot on your shelf next to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked this way Comes, Gruen’s Water for Elephants, and Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
Post did a great deal of historical research for this novel and it shows, and even though there is a great deal of historical accuracy about the carnival life in that period, the novel has it’s fair share of fantasy and magic that will captivate not just fans of the fantasy genre, but anyone who enjoys a good story with intriguing characters in an atmospheric setting.
Miraculum is a fun, engaging read and I highly recommend it.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.