Published by 47North on May 25, 2021
Evil lives in a traveling carnival roaming the Depression-era South. But the carnival’s newest act, a peculiar young woman with latent magical powers, may hold the key to defeating it. Her time has come.
Abandoned by her family, alone on the wrong side of the color line with little to call her own, Eliza Meeks is coming to terms with what she does have. It’s a gift for communicating with animals. To some, she’s a magical tender. To others, a she-devil. To a talent prospector, she’s a crowd-drawing oddity. And the Bacchanal Carnival is Eliza’s ticket out of the swamp trap of Baton Rouge.
Among fortune-tellers, carnies, barkers, and folks even stranger than herself, Eliza finds a new home. But the Bacchanal is no ordinary carnival. An ancient demon has a home there too. She hides behind an iridescent disguise. She feeds on innocent souls. And she’s met her match in Eliza, who’s only beginning to understand the purpose of her own burgeoning powers.
Only then can Eliza save her friends, find her family, and fight the sway of a primordial demon preying upon the human world. Rolling across a consuming dust bowl landscape, Eliza may have found her destiny.
Bacchanal is young adult supernatural standalone by author Veronica Henry. This book was dark and tough to read at times, but overall I really enjoyed it and the journey that it took me on. This is a very atmospheric read and I can’t wait to read more from Veronica Henry because I was really impressed with her writing style. She really has a knack for pulling the reader in, even when the subject matter might be difficult to handle and when scenes might be a bit confusing, I was intrigued to continue on because I wanted to see how everything would come together.
Bacchanal is set in the Depression-era, where we meet our main character Liza. Liza is a young woman orphaned by her family. Her mother left her only with a photograph and an amulet that Eliza was told to keep with her always. Along with those two keepsakes, Liza also have a gift. She can communicate with animals through mental pictures. When a carnival spots her strange gift, she gets a job as an oddity (think bearded woman or alligator man) As she starts to travel with the Bacchanal carnival we get to the real meat of our plot. A demon is somehow linked to Bacchanal, and it is devouring souls of carnival goers. There is also a romance brewing between Liza and two different secondary characters, but I wasn’t as invested in the romance as I was the demon plotline, which is admittedly odd for me.
I would say that Bacchanal is written with more of a meandering slower pace, much more focused on detailed and atmospheric writing. It did take me a little while to fall into this book because I was initially hoping for a quicker “grab” and a faster pace. But once I got the rhythm of Veronica Henry’s writing style, I did enjoy the story quite a bit. I really liked seeing Liza’s powers grow and watching her handle them as she worked through carnival life and the demon aspects of the story. Though a bit slow at times, this book was overall a really good read. If you are not a fan of slower paced stories, I might skip this one, but if you enjoy the idea of a darkly atmospheric supernatural read featuring demons, then Bacchanal is worth sticking with to the end. I enjoyed it!
Praise for BACCHANAL
“Henry skillfully layers historical realism with fantastic elements to explore the way times of desperation test the ethics of oppressed communities. Henry is a writer to watch.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Henry’s debut draws on a rich history of folklore from various African traditions, as well as African history and Black American history, and almost the entire main cast is Black. The carnival setting works perfectly for bringing together various strange and magical people who aren’t at home anywhere else…Come one, come all, this magical carnival has all the delightful dangers a reader could wish for.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“[Bacchanal is] gorgeous while somehow never losing sight of the need to unsettle. It captures a sense of wonder and reminds you that too much curiosity can lead to danger. And most importantly, it’s Black and never lets you forget it. If you want endearing characters, a charming setting, and characters that refuse to bend to the world’s injustices then Bacchanal is the book for you.” ―FIYAH Magazine
“With a powerful voice that grips you from its very first pages, Bacchanal casts a spell on readers…Eliza is a wonderful character…Not a traditional superhero, Eliza’s special power is a highlight of this work, and readers will root for the young conjurer and for Henry as she explores the limits of her gifts.” ―Sheree Renée Thomas, Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, award-winning author of Nine Bar Blues, and featured in Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda
“Writer Veronica Henry pulls on a mix of African folklore, Black histories, and carnival culture to weave a story of mesmerizing, bizarre, and dangerous magic. With a heroine of unique powers and a cast as colorful as any sideshow, this story offers up its share of delights, adventure, and frights! Welcome to Bacchanal. Enjoy the sights. Hope you make it out alive!” ―P. Djèlí Clark, author of Ring Shout, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and The Black God’s Drums
“Readers won’t want their travels with the seductive and dangerous Bacchanal Carnival to end. Veronica Henry’s debut impeccably conjures the 1930s and marks the bold entrance of a vital new voice in modern fantasy.” ―Gwenda Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds
“If you took The Night Circus and viewed it through the gaze of a young Black woman in the Great Depression, you might get Veronica Henry’s Bacchanal. Demons, lies, and secrets.” ―Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo award-winning author of The Calculating Stars
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