Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry is a supernatural fantasy mystery set in late 1930s America with African mythology woven in.
Abandoned by her family, a young black girl named Eliza Meeks is barely getting by cleaning a bed & breakfast in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The only thing she really has to her name is a necklace that her parents gave her that she promised never to take off, and the power to communicate with animals.
Problem is she hasn’t learned to control her power yet, so sometimes the animals die. But sometimes they don’t, and when an alligator wrestler gets distracted during his show, she manages to save him by getting the gator to let go.
This catches the attention of Clay, a talent scout from a traveling carnival, and his assistant Jamey. They offer Eliza a chance to join them to liven up their animal show…she doesn’t hesitate in saying yes.
But this is no ordinary carnival. The G.B. Bacchanal Carnival is actually a front for an ancient evil…a demon who is hunting down the last of her rival’s children.
How Eliza fits in this hunt is the main mystery of the book, which balances Depression-era Louisiana and Southwest America with African folklore and traditions, adding in a touch of the American legend of the gangster Madame Stephanie St. Clair aka Queenie of Harlem.
The book starts out slow, and I do have to give trigger warnings for animal and child deaths (one described in gruesome detail). There’s also an unnecessary love triangle between Eliza, Jamey, and another carnival character (who literally has demons of his own to contend with).
About 2/3 of the way in, all the many storylines start converging, and the action picks up into a final battle between all the characters. But so many questions were raised for me by how easily Eliza just accepted all the strange new events happening in her life. Small leaps of faith were required to just go along with the story for me.
All told though, the story is interesting and I found most of the characters well-crafted. I enjoyed the blend of Americana and African folklore and how it fed the character of Eliza in her journey of discovering who she really is.
I’m giving Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry 3.5 stars out of 5.
Disclaimer: I received an advance e-book copy for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not compensated in any other way. My opinion is honest, and as always, my own.
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Tagged: African diaspora, African folklore, Bacchanal, black writers, book review, mystery books, supernatural books, Veronica G. Henry