The Ballad of Perilous Graves

Alex Jennings. Redhook, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7595-5719-2

Magic and music—here “one and the same”—bring to life a vibrant alternate New Orleans in Jennings’s stunning urban fantasy debut. When Perilous “Perry” Graves encounters the city’s famed undead pianist Doctor Professor, he knows something’s wrong. Nine of the powerful songs that “keep Nola humming” have been stolen, and the city starts to break down: its sky trolleys stop running, and the magic that maintains the city’s music fizzles. From there, the jazzy tale alternates timelines and perspectives between Perry; his younger sister, Brendy; his best friend, Peaches; and Casey Ravel, a trans man who’s moved back to town years after fleeing Hurricane Katrina. As Casey reconnects with his cousin, Jaylon, now a celebrated artist, they look back on their teenage graffiti and the uncanny ways their paintings have changed. And, after Perry and Brendy’s grandfather goes missing, it appears his disappearance may be linked to the music thief, leading the pair to offer to help Doctor Professor investigate. Jennings develops a rich, enveloping world brimming with mesmerizing art, music, and fantasy, and sets within it a rich discussion of community and culture. The unmistakable love for New Orleans that emanates from these pages will stick in readers’ heads—and hearts—like the catchiest of tunes. Agent: Shawna McCarthy, McCarthy Agency. (June)
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