The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex – Blog Tour Book Review
About the Book
THE BALLAD OF PERILOUS GRAVES reveals New Orleans as you’ve never seen it before. From sky trolleys to haints, from the Dead Side of Town to songs that walk, talk, and keep the spirit of the city alive, this is an imaginative story that will sweep you off your feet.
So what is the novel about and what are haints?
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 a powerful song.
Nola is a city of wonders. A place where haints dance the night away, Wise Women keep the order and songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.
Then the rhythm of the city 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 even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end.
With a unique voice, inventive, lyrical storytelling and immersive worldbuilding this vibrant and imaginative debut highlights Black American culture and history in a way that isn’t often explored in fantasy. As for haints, you’ll just have to read it to find out what they are…
About the Author
Alex Jennings was born in Wiesbaden (Germany) and raised in Gaborone (Botswana), Paramaribo (Surinam) and Tunis (Tunisia) as well as the United States. He is a graduate of Clarion West and the University of New Orleans. He is now a teacher, author and performer living in New Orleans. His writing has appeared in strangehorizons.com, podcastle, The Peauxdunque Review, Obsidian Lit, the Locus-Award winning Luminescent. He is an afternoon person. @Magicknegro
What I Thought
New Orleans – or Nola – as it’s depicted here is a place that I’d love to visit someday. Already known as a city for the paranormal here the paranormal is part of the everyday – with haints (ghosts) striking up a band and drawing people into their hypnotic dance, and graffiti that hovers in the air.
I have to admit that it took a time to get used to this book and I’m not sure I fully got there. I think this is because initially I was trying to read it quickly, whereas it deserves to be read when you have the luxury of time. Some of it is written in dialect which also meant it demanded a bit of extra attention. And just look at that attention demanding cover too.
The writing is truly lyrical – it has a melody all its own and, as I was reading I did wonder if this would work better for me as an audiobook – I found a sample online so do take a listen and see what you think – I love that there is – rightly – music included and will definitely give this a try when it’s available here (not yet available on audible U.K.).
Perilous Graves or Perry for short is a young boy, who along with his younger sister Brendy and unusual crush Peaches get caught up in a task to save the city by capturing some missing songs. Peaches was my favourite character – she was ballsy and brave and we go on quite the emotional journey with her.
The story was like a fever dream and sections of it reminded me of: the underwater scene in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Stephen King’s IT, Pixar’s Soul, the Dr in Princess and the Frog the and a certain boy wizard. Ironic as the other main POV character was a trans man.
Art and music combine, and at its heart I think it’s a tale of how New Orleans as a city rebuilt after Katrina – how its artistic heart and spirit lived on despite the destruction.
I honestly think this is going to be a book that will divide people – with some adoring it and some really not. My opinion lies somewhere in the middle, it made my brain hurt, not necessarily in a bad way – just in a way that means I need to afford it more of my energy on a re-read. There’s so much going on that I’m fairly sure it will be a completely different experience the next time. This is such a unique debut and it has such a visual and auditory aesthetic that I’m definitely going to check out the audiobook and wouldn’t be surprised if a filmed version exists one day. I love that this has encouraged me to read out of my comfort zone and I just need to do some work to make this more accessible for me. I’m definitely going to check out author Alex Jennings Spotify playlist of musical inspiration here before a re-read.
Do check out the other posts on the tour and see what others – especially those more musically minded – made of it.
Thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers and the Publisher for the gifted ARC for the purposes of an honest review and my apologies for posting this late. On this occasion life caught up with me and the book needed more time to do the review justice.