In the 1930s, a young woman uses her ability to communicate with animals to find a home with a traveling carnival.
Eliza Meeks can’t talk to animals, exactly, but she can send images to them and get images back. Separated from her beloved baby sister, Twiggy, Liza does housework for a nasty woman who owns the Baton Rouge boardinghouse where she lives. When the G.B. Bacchanal Carnival comes to town, Liza manages to salvage a disastrous alligator-wrestling match, and the carnival’s proprietor, Clay Kennel, is so impressed that he offers her a job as an animal performer. At the same time, he orders her to steer clear of a strange red trailer. Inside the trailer is Clay’s boss, the true owner of the G.B. Bacchanal Carnival, Geneva Broussard. Only Geneva isn’t her real name, and she’s not remotely human—she’s an ancient demon who devours the souls of children, and Liza may be the only one who can stop her. 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. The extended cast is all finely detailed, but too much time spent on supporting characters destabilizes the plot before it finds traction again with Liza heading into the finale.
Come one, come all, this magical carnival has all the delightful dangers a reader could wish for.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month: Science Fiction & Fantasy
“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
“Set in the Depression-era South and featuring a mysterious traveling carnival, it’s a novel of Black history and magic that makes for a terrific read.” —The Washington Post
“Beautifully descriptive prose that fully captures the places, people, and time period.” —Booklist
“Filled with magic, danger, and dynamic characters.” —Woman’s World
“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