The name of the traveling carnival in Steph Post’s Miraculum oversells its attractions, but not by much. Pontilliar’s Spectacular Star Light Miraculum features a bearded lady, dancing girls, Russian acrobats, games, rides, and our protagonist, the tattooed, snake-charming Ruby Chole. It also featured a geek show at the beginning of the novel, but the geek and his sudden replacement by a sinister man in a tuxedo quickly clues us in to the fact that all is not right with this traveling show.
The Miraculum is one of the few homes Ruby has ever known. Ever since she agreed to be tattooed—at the request of her unscrupulous showman of a father, Pontilliar—Ruby can’t go anywhere without being stared at. She is covered from head to toe with strange symbols. These marks are so unusual and so different from what most Tattooed Ladies wear that Ruby has had to turn herself into a snake-charmer in order to have an act people will pay money to see. The traveling show is all she has, which is why she can’t allow anyone to mess with the Miraculum.
Daniel Revont wants to mess with the Miraculum. It’s his nature to mess with things. This strange man arrived just as the previous geek hanged himself after the night’s show. In spite of his lack of experience, Pontilliar hires him on the spot. Small things and short interstitial sections clue us into the fact that Revont is not what he appears. He can hypnotize people to do his bidding. He charms and menaces by turns. And all he seems to want is something to alleviate the boredom of centuries. The only person he can’t get his hooks into is Ruby. For some reason, she is immune and this fact fascinates Revont.
Unfortunately, Miraculum never quite lives up to the promise of having a supernatural interloper in a traveling carnival. There is just enough world building to make for an interesting setting and plot, but the ending was a complete disappointment to me. It undercuts all the wonderful tension that had been building since the geek’s death by just fizzling out.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.