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The year is 1922. The carnival is Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum, staked out on the Texas-Louisiana border. One blazing summer night, a mysterious stranger steps onto the midway, lights a cigarette and forever changes the world around him. Tattooed snake charmer Ruby has traveled with her father’s carnival for most of her life and, jaded though she is, can’t help but be drawn to the tall man in the immaculate black suit who conveniently joins the carnival as a chicken-biting geek. Mercurial and charismatic, Daniel charms everyone he encounters, but his manipulation of Ruby turns complicated when it’s no longer clear who’s holding all the cards. Daniel is full of secrets, but he hadn’t counted on Ruby having a few of her own.
When one tragedy after another strikes the carnival—and it becomes clear that Daniel is somehow at the center of calamity—Ruby takes it upon herself to discover the mystery of the shadowy man pulling all the strings. Joined by Hayden, a roughneck-turned-mural-painter wrestling demons of his own, Ruby engages Daniel in a dangerous, eye-opening game in which nothing is as it seems and everything is at stake.
Steph Post has firmly estblished herself as one of the most original and captivating voices in contemporary fiction, and with Miraculum she has written an unforgettable novel that is part Southern Gothic, part Noir, part Magical Realism, and all Steph Post.
In this underwhelming novel from Post (Lightwood) a circus hires on a mysterious stranger and soon finds itself suffering from a string of unexplained tragedies. Touring the Louisiana-Texas border in 1922, Pontilliar's Spectacular Star Light Miraculum is made up of a rough crowd of outcasts and runaways, everyone holding secrets and grudges against one another. When the geek a member of the show who bites off the heads of small animals is found dead from an apparent suicide by hanging, a well-dressed man named Daniel shows up out of nowhere and offers to take his place. But Ruby, a snake charmer and the daughter of the circus owner, has a feeling Daniel is hiding something sinister. While the circus atmosphere Post creates is one of danger and intrigue, there's little actual mystery to be found here. The story moves too quickly, leaving the characters underdeveloped and their motivations unclear. Twists are also telegraphed in advance through jumps in perspective that often make the story hard to follow. Both too rakish and supernatural to be believable, Daniel maintains an uncanny effect on all those around him from his introduction until the novel's predictable end. Despite the rich setting and strong concept, Post's story of a macabre travelling spectacular fails to captivate.