Black River Lantern

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You might not know this, but there’s a difference between a circus and a carnival. A circus is a traveling affair, bringing its whimsy and wonders along for a brief respite, then continuing onwards. A carnival, on the other hand, stays in place, sometimes for years, and cultivates a relationship with a town. A carnival takes root. And the Marivicos Carnival has deeper roots than anyone suspects.

Run by the ambitious, maniacal, and ruthless Papa Marivicos, the carnival has been part of Kayjigville for generations. Its current star attraction? Papa’s son Eddie, who has the gift (and the curse) of reading minds. As Eddie comes to grips with his unique abilities—and the consequences of a hard choice made years ago—he slowly grows beyond the role Papa has cast him in. There are strange forces at work, within and without, and Eddie and his Papa are destined for a showdown.

You see, Papa’s plans for the Marivicos Carnival extend much further than Eddie suspects. A local lady of the evening, a friendly doctor and his troubled wife, a predatory businesswoman with an axe to grind…people large and small will soon find themselves woven into the story of the Marivicos Carnival, for better or for worse.

Black River Lantern is a deliciously sinister story, one steeped in all that rural Americana has to offer. It’s a tale of family and dark forces, fates and fortunes, a modern myth born at the crosswords of the old world and the new. It’s hard to encapsulate what makes this book so electric. There’s something grand and mythic about it, while remaining a relatively simple tale of small-town life and its unexpected twists and turns. It’s big and small all at once. There is love and loss and violence and family obligation and it’s all spun into a rich goulash, overflowing with anger and heartache and desire. These all feel like real characters. They have flaws and make mistakes, they can be selfless and selfish. Even amidst strange supernatural happenings and twisted back-alley dealings with corrupt officials, you believe deep down that the protagonists are good people trapped in a peculiar web spun by circumstance, malicious interests, and dark entities.

Eddie’s life is undoubtedly a tragic one, but Grass manages to make it not just relatable, but desperately compelling. You root for him, you hope for him, you suffer alongside him as you learn about what he’s endured, past and present, and what he may endure in times to come. Black River Lantern feels like a tale told under a bridge, or in the open boxcar of a train, or on a porch late at night when everyone else has gone to bed. It’s almost Biblical in its presentation, but never feels like it has false aspirations of grandeur. It’s reach never exceeds its grasp. And its grasp, make no mistake, will hold you tight to the very last page.

Reviewed By:

Author Alex Grass
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 350 pages
Publisher Dickinson Publishing Group
Publish Date 2020-10-01
ISBN 0000111220204 Buy this Book
Issue November 2020
Category Horror


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