This Southern gothic tale follows a bedraggled carnival as it limps through the Deep South.
It’s 1922, and Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum has been “on its last legs for the past fifteen years.” The carnival has a wonderfully odd collection of freaks for public amazement, including a man with a third leg and a geek who bites the heads off chickens. Trouble begins when the geek inexplicably hangs himself—you’d think a geek would have everything to live for—and a handsome, well-dressed stranger named Daniel presents himself to Pontilliar as the “new glomming geek.” Protagonist Ruby Chole is Pontilliar’s daughter, a sympathetic character who is tattooed from head to toe and plays the snake charmer, Esmeralda the Enchantress. Ruby senses something sinister about Daniel even before the second terrible incident: Daniel challenges gambling addict Tom Given to a dice game of Dead Man All In and wins Tom’s beautiful girlfriend, January, who seems to have no say in the matter. Tom then horrifies his carnival colleagues by falling to his death from a Ferris wheel. Among the carnival workers, “There were whispers of madness. And of murderers.” Ruby suspects that Daniel has killed both men—or caused them to die. But no one is prepared for the further havoc that befalls the carnival. Daniel reveals himself to the reader as being other than human—as a god, in fact. The “hell-sent geek” has lived as a trickster for countless centuries and is delighted whenever he can cause disasters. In the end, Ruby must find a way to deal with him—she can’t kill him, so she had better come up with a trick of her own. This is a tale brimming with imagination and rich in melancholy as it pits the natural against the supernatural and touches on what it means to be human.
Great fare for fans of gothic fiction or simply good storytelling.