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Guest Review: Literace Reviews: The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings drew me in because of its New Orleans setting and the integration of magic in an already magical city (and let’s face it… that cover!). Jennings plays with music and magic in an interesting way that is certainly brimming with that Nola feel. Continue reading to get a more in-depth take on this new novel by Alex Jennings.


In a fantastical version of New Orleans where music is magic, a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this vibrant and imaginative debut.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women keep the order, and where songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Far Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician, Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. Then the rhythm stutters.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat and without them, Nola will fail. Unexpectedly, Perry and his sister, Brendy, are tasked with saving the city. But a storm is brewing and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

World Building & Characters

What I enjoyed the most in The Ballad of Perilous Graves was the fantastical and inventive reincarnation of New Orleans. The role that music and art played in magic and lore was really well and interestingly integrated into the heart of this story. The world kept expanding with more and more aspects of folklore and mythos being created and introduced. 

I also really liked the characters in The Ballad of Perilous Graves. I’m not always a fan of children as main characters, but Jennings wrote Perry, Brendy, and Peaches so well, adding depth to the narrative. For a while, Casey (loving the trans representation!) is just kinda popping up as a POV, but his final integration with the rest of the group was a welcome turning point.

Complicated Plot

Honestly, there was a lot of jumping around in The Ballad of Perilous Graves, making it complicated to follow at times. My phone was reading it to me and with the dialect in tow, it could be hard to follow. Throughout I thought “where am I?” but I eventually accepted my confusion. Because you don’t have time to be lost with all of the songs escaping from the piano and New Orleans possibly falling.


I would say this book is kind of a niche book and not quite in my niche. I still would recommend The Ballad of Perilous Graves to someone looking for an interesting read. The magical realism is fascinating! I love the way Jennings captures and enhances the eerie mystical feel of the city. The characters are all compelling, interesting, and well thought out. 

Find The Ballad of Perilous Graves on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository


What is your favorite example of magical realism in print or film?

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