Before reading Steph Post’s latest novel, Miraculum, which hits shelves today, I never wondered what it would be like to be one of the carnie-folk in a 20s-era traveling menagerie. Now, that’s the only thing on my mind. No lie. I’m literally practicing my snake charming skills as we speak, and with only minimal venom-induced damage.
Miraculum, in a word, is miraculous. In more than a word, it is a riveting journey into the past, through lore and voodoo, driven by a remarkable cast of the most unique and authentic characters to have stared back at me from the page in as long as I can remember. There’s the tough-as-nails snake charmer, Ruby, whose patchy, tattooed past is revealed in a steady and excruciatingly satisfying drip-drip of revelation throughout a story that provides bursts of action from every angle of the midway on its descent to the evil depths at the heart of the menagerie. There’s also Daniel, the newest geek at the carnival, whose sleek suit and refined manners are no match for his job biting the heads off of chickens, but which match the blackness of his heart in totality.
And, at the center of Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum, lies a spate of unexplained tragedies that pit Ruby against Daniel in a game that is unpredictable, unrelenting, and possibly unwinnable.
I am head over heels about this book. Post’s prose is captivating, illuminating, and unique all in one shot, and I love how the third person narrator shifts from tent to tent, slowly uncovering the devastating secrets underlying Pontilliar’s traveling spectacle. The amount of research that went into creating a work that accurately depicts the inner-workings of a carnival of this nature is evident in just about every line of the story, and Post’s ability to rebuild this world in her own devilish ways is both astounding and commendable.
If you love all things Southern Gothic, noir, or magical realism this is the book for you. If not, and you just like being on the edge of your seat for long periods of time and getting freaked out every few pages, pick yourself up a copy. You’ll be in for a treat.
Steph Post is a recipient of the Patricia Cornwell Scholarship for creative writing from Davidson College and the Vereen Bell writing award for fiction. She holds a Master’s degree in Graduate Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her short fiction has appeared in Haunted Waters: From the Depths, The Round-Up, The Gambler Mag, Foliate Oak, Kentucky Review, Vending Machine Press, Nonbinary Review and the anthology Stephen King’s Contemporary Classics.
Her short story “The Pallid Mask” has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a regular contributor to Small Press Book Review and Alternating Current Press and has published numerous book reviews and author interviews. Her first novel, A Tree Born Crooked, was a semi-finalist for The Big Moose Prize and was released in September 2014 by Pandamoon Publishing. She is currently the writing coach at Howard W. Blake High School in Tampa, FL. Visit Steph’s website at stephpostfiction.com or @StephPostAuthor.