MIRACULUM by Steph Post

I became a fan of Steph Post’s writing the minute I finished reading her novel LIGHTWOOD. She expertly wove together three plot lines and executed a fantastic ending to the book. When I heard she was writing a book set in the 1920’s, one of my favorite periods in American history, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Post’s book MIRACULUM does not disappoint.

The carnival Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum has been touring the American deep South during the early part of the Twentieth Century. Carnival rides and a freak show are the mainstays of the touring company. A stranger joins the troupe after the show’s geek, the guy who bites the heads off chickens, commits suicide. Additional tragedies befall the carnival staff after Daniel, the stranger, joins them. Ruby, the carnival’s snake charmer and the owner’s daughter, doesn’t think this is a coincidence. She makes it her mission to uncover Daniel’s secrets. Ruby quickly learns that there is a lot more to Daniel than she could have imagined.

Post slowly teases out Ruby and Daniel’s backstories. These are very complicated characters and she masterfully reveals their stories. For example, Daniel is a very charming man. The people in the Miraculum quickly become taken with him and are willing to do what he asks. Post paces herself when revealing the darkness that accompanies his charms. She adds short vignettes from his point of view sporadically throughout the book to explain who he is and where he’s really from.

Not only are the characters well developed in MIRACULUM, so are the locations. Post had a clear vision of how the Miraculum looks, from the tents to the murals to the show barkers, and she makes sure the reader can see her vision. The book’s finale takes place at the upscale Plaza Hotel in Atlanta. The luxury of the hotel is a stark contrast from the ragtag carnival. Both locations are written with enough detail that the reader feels like they are there.

MIRACULUM is a wonderfully fresh take on folklore in America. At this time in history, more people are immigrating to the country and bringing their belief systems with them. A major part of Ruby’s history centers around the bayous outside of New Orleans, a city that is a melting pot of old religions and belief systems. Post explores what happens when ancient beings from Europe encounter the spiritual beings from the Caribbean, Africa, and Polynesia.

With MIRACULUM, Steph Post shows that won’t be restricted to one corner of fiction writing. She has proven that she can write gritty crime and magical realism. I can’t wait to see what she takes on next.

Kate Malmon