Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women keep the order, and where songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Far Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician, Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. Then the rhythm stutters.
Nine songs of power have escaped from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat and without them, Nola will fail. Unexpectedly, Perry and his sister, Brendy, are tasked with saving the city. But a storm is brewing and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Perilous Graves and his sister Brendy live in Nola, a city full of wonders, where magic exists, haints roam the city and where songs are the life and breath of the city. So when 9 of them are taken and start getting destroyed, Perilous, Brendy, their friend Peaches and Casey are put on the task of finding them and bringing them back to Doctor Professor, the man whose music keeps Nola alive. But things aren’t all as they seem, there is a storm brewing, the storm of all storms and some of the songs released aren’t too willing to go back to where they were before. The gang will have to delve into every power and skill they have if they are to gather the 9 songs and save Nola from being destroyed for good.
The Ballad of Perilous Graves was one of the quirkier stories I’ve read this year and, although it took me a little while to get into the swing of things, once I did I easily got invested in the story and found myself desperate for Perry (Perilous), Brendy, Peaches & Casey, the only adult POV, to survive, and a large part of that was how effortlessly they came to life as characters. Perry was through with the life of magic after an event left him terrified of what could happen, but through circumstance and familial heritage, finds himself and Brendy thrust into the world with too little knowledge and a whole heap of power. On the cusp of adulthood, Perry is loosing that childish feeling of imperviousness, he knows danger and fear, whereas Brendy is still young enough to think she is untouchable, still delighted by magic without the fear of wondering what it could do to her. Peaches is a strange character, a young girl living by herself who runs the streets of Nola like she owns it, and she might well do. With unnatural strength and a strong tie to the magical world, she is someone both Perry and Brendy look too with a kind of awe. Casey’s POV is one that definitely threw me a little, and we find the reason for that later on in the book. He’s a trans male, coming to grips with a major death in his life, but someone who also has more magical ability than he thought and unwittingly finds himself in the middle of a battle for the city he loves.
The above are just the main characters but Jennnings fills this book to the brim with exceptionally built characters that help bring his story to life, from Perry and Brendy’s family, to the living embodiments of the 9 songs that get stolen as well as all the magical beings we meet a long the way. Jennings has an ability to make even the smallest character leap off the page and every single one has a part to play in the telling of his story.
This book takes the New Orleans we all know and love and just makes it more real. Jenning’s makes it a place fuelled by music and art and magic, where they don’t just run in the hearts of the people who live there, but are actually the heartbeat of the city itself. We also get musical spirits roaming the streets, zombies and P-bodies, people who have spent too much time walking through the magical and moving street tags that freely roam the city. Jennings makes it a place of wonder, but also dangerous and definitely makes the stakes of the story higher when you realise it’s three kids and one adult who have to save them all.
One of the big themes running through this book was the fact that adults are just big kinds playing pretend, that they don’t have the answers most of the time and I LOVED this because it is so unbelievably true. We see this through the flapping of Perry and Brendy’s parents when they realise what their children have been tasked with, and knowing they can do nothing to help, but also through Perry who, on the cusp of adulthood himself, is frantically looking for answers where there are none. He gets frustrated when the people he asks for help don’t have answers for him, and even more so when he can’t work things out himself.
This book was a joy to read, but also slightly weird and for the most part of the book had me wondering what was actually going on. I’m saying this because, readers who like clear cut plots might not enjoy this book as much as those of us who are willing to feel lost. It’s a story that asks for patience whilst reading, as well as a little bit of faith that you will get to where you need to be and trust me, the pay of is 100% worth it. It’s a story to fuel the imagination, filled with unforgettable characters and brings to life a Nola that I would visit in a heartbeat. I would love to say ‘perfect for fans of’ but I think I can safely say I haven’t read anything like this before, but it’s safe to say I will be keeping my eye out for whatever Jennings writes next. A sold 4 stars.