“Miraculum,” by Steph Post

Steph Post

Reviewed by Honey Rand

There must be something in the water in that part of Florida. Steph Post gets hers in Brooksville, and fantasy writer Piers Anthony drinks the water just a few miles north. Either way, whatever is in the water produces imaginative stories that readers love.

The word miraculum doesn’t have contemporary meaning; nevertheless, readers will recognize the magic in the name: a place where miracles happen. A miraculous context. Something more than a singular event, place, or person.

Miraculum, Post’s third book, is set in the early 1900s in a traveling carnival. They’ve lost their animals. Only freaks and oddities are left. It’s a hard life where the “circus” is a context of uncertainty, instability.

Post has done her research bringing the specific jargon of the time and place to boost the reader’s appreciation of both. Times and places have their language, and the writer has captured their uniqueness. Geeks in this context, for example, are not bookish lovers of detail in their fetish series. Instead, they are the performers who bit the heads off chickens, in this instance. Gamesmen and rousties are people who work at the carnival.

The book provides many twisties in the first part—a good thing because the narratives between scenes are very long. The writer uses considerable exposition to provide backstory for character development, which slows the story down. Still, set apart in its own section is narrative that provides extensive information about someone or something ancient, but it’s not clear who is narrating until much later in the book.

The triad of main characters includes Ruby, the beautiful, tattooed woman; Hayden, the artist who paints stories on tents and trucks; and the geek gentleman, Daniel, who has an air of both mystery and menace.

While the characters are revealed from scene to scene, the expansive narrative slows the book down. This could be a feature of this gothic/horror/occult genre. From the time Ruby, the tattooed lady, learns things about her tattoos, the story picks up considerably. That is 200 pages into the book. In the last third of the book, as the main characters push through to the climactic end, the pace increases exponentially to a heart-pounding rhythm. The scenes and narration fit together here to create an experience that transforms this book into a page-turner.

Readers who love magical realism, the occult, the mystery of magical history will love this story and will likely savor the narrative that explains it all between scenes. Those that love this genre will appreciate the deep dive. Others, not so much.

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