The Ballad of Perilous Graves


By Alex Jennings

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$6.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 21, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

"Funny, wild, witty, and profound.”―Victor LaValle

"A wild and wonderful debut, teeming with music, family and art."New York Times

"Magical, lyrical, gritty, otherworldly…hype like Bayou Classic in the 90s."—P. Djèlí Clark

One of the Best Fantasy Books of 2022: New York TimesOprah DailyVulture; Gizmodo; Boston Public Library

A fun and fantastical love letter to New Orleans unfolds when a battle for the city's soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this wildly 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 help keep the order. To those from Away, Nola might seem strange. To Perilous Graves, it’s simply home.

Perry knows Nola’s rhythm as intimately as his own heartbeat. So when the city’s Great Magician starts appearing in odd places and essential songs are forgotten, Perry knows trouble is afoot.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the piano that maintains the city’s beat, and without them, Nola will fail. Unwilling to watch his home be destroyed, Perry will sacrifice everything to save it. But a storm is brewing, and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Nola’s time might be coming to an end.




Perry Graves tried not to think about summer’s arrival—the heat devils hovering, breathless, over the blacktop as if waiting for something to happen—or even about the city streets. Tomorrow was the last day of school, and he’d be free to roam the neighborhood soon enough… But it wouldn’t be soon enough. Perry and his little sister, Brendy, sat cross-legged on the living room floor watching Morgus the Magnificent on the TV. The unkempt, hollow-eyed scientist was trying to convince a gray-haired opera singer to stick his head into a machine that would allow Morgus to amputate the singer’s voice with a flip of the switch. From here, Perry could hear his parents and their friends gabbing on the front porch as they sipped sweet tea and played dominoes.

“Why you ain’t laughing?” Brendy said.

“Don’t talk like that,” Perry said. “Daddy hears you, he’ll get you good.” Then, “I don’t always have to laugh just because something’s funny.”

“Oh, I know, Perry-berry-derry-larry.” Brendy stuck her tongue out at him. “You in a mood ’cause you ain’t seen Peaches in a week. You don’t want me talkin’ like her because it remind you of the paaaaaain in yo heaaaaaaaaart!”

Perry scowled. “Shut up.”

“I’m sorry,” Brendy said. “I’m sorry you luuuuuuuvs Peaches like she yo wiiiiiiiiife!”

“Little bit, you be sorry you don’t shut your mouth,” Perry threatened. He had no idea what he could do to silence her without getting into trouble.

“Nyeeeeowm! Zzzzzrack!” For a moment, Brendy absently imitated the sound effects from Morgus. “You just want her to say ‘Oh! Perilous! I luuuuuvs yew tew! Keeeeeeess me, Perry! Like zey do een—’” Perry was ready to grab his baby sister, clap his hand over her mouth at least, but before he could, a clamor rose up outside. “Looka there!” some grown-up shouted from the porch, his voice marbling through a hubbub of startled adult exclamations.

Whatever was going on out there had nothing to do with Perry, so he ignored it. He was sure that someone had just walked through some graffiti, or that a parade of paintbodies was making its way down Jackson Avenue. He grabbed Brendy’s wrist, all set to give her a good tickle, but when the first piano chord sounded on the night air, Perry’s body took notice.

Perry let go of his sister, and his legs unfolded him to standing. By the time the second bar began, his knees had begun to flex. He danced in place for a moment before he realized what was happening, then turned and made for the front door. Brendy bounced along right beside him, her single Afro pouf bobbing atop her little round head.



Ooo-ooh baby, ooooooh—ooh-wee!

Outside, Perry’s parents and their friends had already descended to the street. Perry’s grandfather, Daddy Deke, stood at the base of the porch steps, pumping his knees and elbows in time with the music. “Something ain’t right!” he shouted. “He don’t never show up this far uptown—not even at Mardi Gras!”

Perry bounced on his toes in the blast of the electric fan sitting at the far end of the porch. The night beyond the stream of air was hot and close—like dog breath, but without the smell. As soon as Perry left the breeze, dancing to the edge of the porch steps, little beads of sweat sprang out on his forehead and started running down.

From here, as he wobbled his legs and rolled his shoulders, Perry saw a shadow forming under the streetlight. It was the silhouette of a man sitting at a piano, and the music came from him. The spirit’s piano resolved into view. It was a glittery-gold baby grand festooned with stickers and beads, its keys moving on their own. Shortly thereafter, Doctor Professor himself appeared, hunched over, playing hard as he threw his head back in song. He wore a fuzzy purple fur hat, great big sunglasses with star-shaped lenses, and a purple-sequined tuxedo jacket and bow tie. Big clunky rings stood out on his knuckles as his hands blurred across the keyboard, striking notes and chords. Perry smelled licorice, but couldn’t tell whether the smell came from Doctor Professor or from somewhere else. The scent was so powerful, it was almost unpleasant.

All Perry’s senses seemed sharper now, and he tried to drink in every impression. He danced in place to the piano and the bass, but as he did, guitars and horns played right along, their sound pouring right out of Fess’s mouth.

Ooh-wee, baby, ooooooh—wee

What did you done to meeeee…!

By now, everyone for blocks around had come out of their houses and onto the blacktop. A line of cars waited patiently at Carondelet Street, their doors open, their drivers dancing on the hoods and on the roofs. It was just what you did when Doctor Professor appeared, whatever time of day or night. They danced along to the music, and those who knew the lyrics even sang along.

You told me I’m yo man

You won’t have nobody else

Now I’m sittin’ home at night

With nobody but myself—!

Perry gave himself up to the sound and the rhythm of the music. The saxophone solo had begun, and it spun Perry around, carried him down the steps and across the yard. His feet swiveled on the sidewalk, turning in and out as he threw his arms up above his head.

Just as quickly as he’d come, Doctor Professor began to fade from sight. First, the man disappeared except for his hands, then his stool disappeared, and then the piano itself. He had become another disturbance in the air—a weird blot of not-really-anything smudged inside the cone cast by the streetlight, and just before he had gone entirely away, Perry heard another song starting up. The music released him, and the crowd stopped moving.

“Oh, have mercy!” Perry’s mother crowed. “That’s what I needed, baby!”

“That Doctor Professor sure can play.”

“Baby, you know it. Take your bounce, take your zydeco—this a jazz city through and through!”

Wilting in the heat, Perry turned to head back inside and saw Daddy Deke still standing by the porch. The old man wore a black-and-crimson zoot suit, and now that he’d finished his dance, he took off his broad-brimmed hat and held it in his left hand. He looked down his beaky nose at Perry, staring like a bird. “Things like that don’t happen for no reason,” he said. “Something up.”

“Something bad?” Perry asked.

“Couldn’t tell ya, baby,” he said. “Daddy Deke don’t know much about magic or spirits. But I gotta wonder… why that streetlight in particular? That one right there in front of Peaches’s house?”

Now Perry turned to look back at the space where Doctor Professor had appeared. Daddy Deke was right. It stood exactly in front of Peaches’s big white birthday cake of a house.

“I didn’t see her dancing,” Perry said. “Did you?”

“If she’da been there, we’da known it,” Daddy Deke said. “Can’t miss that Peaches, now, can you?”

Perry and Brendy’s parents resumed their seats on the porch, but Daddy Deke headed past them into the house. Perry and his sister followed. In the foyer, Daddy Deke paused to breathe in the cool of the AC and mop his brow with a handkerchief. “Ain’t danced like that in a minute,” he said.

The living room TV was still gabbling away. Brendy twirled and glided over to shut it off—and Perry wasn’t surprised. After seeing Doctor Professor, the idea of staring at the TV screen seemed terminally boring—but so did porch-sitting.

“What you doing tonight anyhows, Daddy Deke?” Brendy asked.

“Caught a couple bass in the park this morning,” the old man said. “Might as well fry some up and eat it.”

“You went fishing without us?”

“Y’all had school,” Daddy Deke said. “If you comin’, come on.”

Daddy Deke’s house sat around the corner on Brainard Street, a stubby little avenue that ran from St. Andrew to Philip, parallel with St. Charles. The low, ranch-style bungalow with the terracotta roof and stucco walls looked a little out-of-place for the Central City—it was the kind of place Perry would expect to see in Broadmoor, crouching back from the street like ThunderCats Lair.

As Perry and Brendy crossed the lawn, Daddy Deke broke away to head for his car, an old Ford Comet that seemed like a good match for the house in that it was also catlike. But instead of ThunderCats Lair, it reminded Perry of Panthor, Skeletor’s evil-but-harmless familiar. Daddy Deke turned to look at his grandchildren over his narrow shoulder. “Gwan, y’all. I just gotta stash something real quick, me.”

As always, the door to Daddy Deke’s house was unlocked. Perry let himself and Brendy inside and took a deep breath. Daddy Deke’s place had a smell he couldn’t quite identify, but it was unmistakable. A mix of incense, frying oil, and Daddy Deke’s own particular aroma—the one he wore beneath his cologne and his mouthwash, the scent that was only his.

At one time, the house had been a doubled shotgun. Daddy Deke had had the central dividing wall and a couple others knocked down, but the second front door remained. Perry and Brendy took off their shoes and stored them in the cubby underneath the coat rack. By then, Daddy Deke had followed them inside.

“Do the fish need scaling?” Perry asked. Daddy Deke had shown him how to descale, gut, and fillet a fish, but Perry was still refining his grasp on the process. There was something about it he enjoyed; figuring out how to get rid of all those fins, bones, and scales felt a little like alchemy—transmuting an animal into food. It made Perry think of the Bible story where Jesus fed thousands on a couple fish and two loaves.

“Naw,” Daddy Deke said. “Did it my own self this time—wanted to get them heads in the freezer. Gonna make a stew later on.”

Perry’s mouth watered. Daddy Deke’s fish-head stew was legendary—no matter what form it took. He could make it French-style, Cajun, or even Thai. On those nights when Daddy Deke made a pot for the family and carried it around the corner, the family would eat in near silence, punctuated with satisfied grunts and hums of approval.

“Why I can’t never fix the fishes?” Brendy asked. “I wanna help make dinner!”

“You didn’t want to learn,” Perry said. “You said it was gross.”

A flash of anger lit Brendy’s face, but it blinked away as quickly as it had come.

“You promise to be careful with the knife,” Daddy Deke said, “and we put you on salad duty, heard?”

“Yesss!” Brendy hissed. “Knife knife knife knife knife!”

“Lord,” Perry said with a roll of his eyes.

In the kitchen, Daddy Deke turned on the countertop radio and stride piano poured forth to fill the room like water. “You know who that is?” Daddy Deke said.

Perry listened closely. He recognized the song—“Summertime”—but not the expert hands that played it. Hearing it made him feel a sharp pang of loss. He hadn’t touched a keyboard in more than a year. He pushed that thought away—thinking about playing was a dark road that led nowhere good. “No,” Perry said. “Who is it?”

“That’s Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith,” Daddy Deke said, “outta New Jersey. Used to work in a slaughterhouse with his daddy when he was a boy. He said it was horrible, hearing them animals done in, but there was something musical about it, too. That’s the thing about music, about a symphony: destruction, war, peace, and beauty all mixed up, ya heard?”

Perry frowned and shut his eyes, listening more closely. He could hear it. At first the tone of the music reminded him of water, and it was still liquid, but now he imagined a bit of darkness and blood mixed in. He saw flowers unfurling to catch rain in a storm. Some of them were destroyed, pulverized by the water or swept away in the high wind.

“That’s the thing about music,” Daddy Deke said. “It can destroy as much as it creates. It’s wild and powerful, dig?”

Perry opened his eyes. “Yes,” he said, trying to keep the sadness from his voice. “I understand—a little bit, I think.”

“Hey, now,” Daddy Deke said.

Perry shook his head. His attention had been off in the ozone somewhere as he, Daddy Deke, and Brendy played rummy. Perry liked rummy okay—he liked the shape of the rules, the feel of the game itself—the cards against his palms, raising and lowering them to the table, keeping track of points—but tonight, he’d been going through the motions. “I’m sorry,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on is you won and you don’t even care!” Brendy huffed.

“Y’all, I’m sorry,” Perry said. “I just—I still feel the music on me. I’m thinking about what it means and what Doctor Professor wants with Peaches.”

Brendy rolled her eyes. “‘And where she at? What she doing? She thinking bout me?’ Blah blah blippity.”

Daddy Deke laid down his cards and shook his head. “Don’t tease ya brother for caring—and besides, Perry ain’t the only one miss Peaches when she gone. Is he?”

Brendy pulled a face where she flexed her neck muscles and drew her mouth into a flat, toadish line. Then she let the expression go and sucked in a huge mouthful of air to pooch out her cheeks. She let that go, too. “Okay, no he ain’t,” she said. “We all be missing Peaches. I get left alone, too, but I don’t make a big deal. Just like when—”

Perry knew his expression must have darkened because Brendy cast aside whatever she’d meant to say next. “En EE ways, Peaches always go away for a lil bit after a fight.”

This was true. Thirteen days ago, Peaches had fought Maddy Bombz on the roof of One Shell Square after Perry and Peaches figured out how to predict the location of her next display. Each of her fusillades was part of a grander display—similar to the ones above the Missus Hipp on Juneteenth or on New Year’s—and since she didn’t care about the safety of her “audience,” of course she intended to launch her grand finale atop the tallest building in Nola. Perry and Brendy watched from a Poydras Street sidewalk as one of the explosions tossed Peaches down to the street.

She hit hard and lay still for a moment, then sat up, shaking her head angrily. A glance into the parking lot to his right told Perry what she’d do next. Peaches pushed up imaginary sleeves and bounded over to a big green dumpster. She lifted the bulky metal thing over her head easy-as-you-please and jumped. Hard. Watching her reminded Perry of the moon landing videos. It was as if gravity simply worked differently for her when she wanted it to.

When she leaped back to the street, the dumpster she carried had been crimped closed like a pie crust. She set it down right there on the pavement.

“Five-oh on the way,” she said. “I seen ’em from up above. Let’s get to steppin’.” And they had. Perry and Brendy had spent the night at Peaches’s house, watching TV and eating huckabucks and Sixlets late into the night because there was no school the next day.

Perry and his sister awakened the next morning to find Peaches’s pocket of pillows and blankets empty—and nobody had seen her since.

“I know she coming back,” Perry said.

“I know you know,” Daddy Deke said. “But I’ll tell you sumn for free—there ain’t nothing wrong with the feelings you having, but them feelings are yours. Ain’t nobody else responsible for ’em, dig? You can’t carry nothing for nobody else, and cain’t nobody carry what’s yours for you.”

Perry frowned. In the past, Daddy Deke had never failed to offer him comfort when he was feeling low, but this advice seemed important. He turned Daddy Deke’s words over in his mind for the rest of the night. Cain’t nobody carry what’s yours for you. What burdens did he carry, and why? Well, there was the dream he’d had… but some dark, quiet presence in the back of Perry’s mind told him that it hadn’t been a dream, it had been a warning, and he’d be a fool not to heed it.

Music might be the most powerful magic in Nola, but it couldn’t help Perry—not really.

Dryades Academy was an old square-built art deco building that looked more like a courthouse than a place of learning. Its façade was a riot of ivy, full of ladybugs the size of baseballs, which marched up and down the outer walls, keeping them clean. Chickens roosted in the trees out front, and one of the substitute teachers, Mr. Ghiazi, had told Brendy that every evening, after hours, when the last students and teachers had gone home, the chickens would come inside and hold their own lessons, learning about corn and how to find the best worms and bugs. Something about the way he said it made Brendy think Mr. Ghiazi was probably joking—or at least that he thought he was.

Inside, the building boasted green marble floors, old-fashioned mosaics, and vintage furniture maintained by an invisible custodial staff. What Brendy loved most about the place, what she couldn’t imagine ever parting with, was its smell. Crayons, glitter, oil soap, and cooking. It smelled best on cold winter days, but even on the last day of school, Dryades Academy smelled like home. How her brother could leave it made no sense to her.

This year, Perry and Brendy had attended separate schools. Last summer, Perry abruptly asked to transfer out of Dryades Academy and wound up at a new school over on Esplanade Avenue. Brendy didn’t understand the choice, and she knew she should have asked Perry about it, but every time she tried to bring it up, Perry’s face took on a lost, hunted look, and she backed down. Still, it made her sad and angry to be without him, and sometimes those feelings formed a little knot of tension in her throat—like she’d tried to swallow a pill and failed.

All year she had avoided thinking about it, but now, as she sat at her desk by the window in Mr. Evans’s class, ignoring the movie playing on the classroom livescreen in favor of a Popeye the Sailor Man coloring book, she wondered whether Perry had decided to leave because he wasn’t good at music.

Brendy bore down with her Fuzzy Wuzzy brown, filling in the outline of Popeye’s left arm as he slung a string of chained-together oil barrels over his head. She’d taught herself a trick earlier this year: She liked to color in her figures hard, in layer after layer—careful, of course, to stay inside the lines—then go back with a plastic lunch knife and scrape away the wax. The process resulted in smoother, richer colors that had won her an award from the Chamber of Commerce in its Carnival Coloring Competition. The grand prize had been a beautiful purple-and-white bicycle that Daddy Deke taught her to ride without training wheels.

Brendy frowned, listening hard, as she finished coloring Popeye’s exposed skin and tried to decide what color Olive Oyl should be this time. The chickens in the tree outside had gone quiet. Brendy had earned the right to sit by the broad classroom window because Mr. Evans thought she did such a good job fighting the temptation to stare outside at the trees and the play yard, and the neighborhood beyond. This was only partly true. Brendy found it easy to keep from staring out the window because she tended to listen out it instead. Most of the time she spent at her desk found her listening to the swish of cars on the street, the noise of other classes bouncing balls and running riot on the play yard blacktop, the squabbles of the chickens and the neighborhood cats—who seemed, lately, to have resolved their differences by banding together against the raccoons and possums.

Hey, girl!

Was that Peaches? Brendy raised an eyebrow.

Hey, girl. Hey!

Brendy frowned and selected another crayon. “Peaches?” she whispered.

Yeah, girl. Come on. We gots to go!

Brendy considered briefly, then raised her hand.

It took a while, but Mr. Evans noticed. “Brendy?”

“Can I go use it?”

Mr. Evans nodded curtly. “Two minutes.” But he’d never remember.

Jelly Roll Morton Memorial Academy was abuzz with the news that Doctor Professor had appeared at Jackson and Brainard last night, right in front of Perry’s house, and that Perry himself had been there.

“What did you do?” kids asked.

“Oh, you know,” Perry said, basking in his fame. “I do like you do. I danced.”

“What song he played?”

“‘Missed Yo Chance,’” Perry answered. “It happens to be a favorite of mine.”

“Who else was there? The backup singers? Any P-bodies?”

“At this time of year?” Perry asked. “It ain’t Mardi Gras, you know.”

“My daddy says it couldna been him,” Mickey Ledoux said with a shake of his head. It was just after nine that morning, and the fifth grade was putting the finishing touches on that year’s Learning System. The project was designed to represent everything the fifth-grade class had learned—about the Huey Long Bridge, about the Chinese Revolution, about fractions, adding and subtracting time, and about Albert Einstein.

The fifth-grade students had been divided into teams of five, and each student was responsible for designing and creating a representational planetoid to affix to the System—a giant mobile where every planet was an idea. Perry and Mickey were on the math team, and Perry had made an abacus from Ping-Pong balls and PVC pipe, papered with cutouts from magazines and show flyers featuring musicians and clubs from around town. It had taken Perry weeks to come up with the design, and weeks more to execute it. Daddy Deke had brought him every magazine he could find that had even a mention of a Nola musician, but here it was, complete, staring him right in the face.

When Perry looked at Mickey’s sculpture, he felt like he’d been duped. Mickey had made a sundial that looked like it had taken him maybe twenty minutes to put together—or no time at all if, as Perry suspected, Mickey’s older brother had just done it for him.

Now, the entire fifth grade had taken over the cafeteria under the supervision of the art teacher, Miss Erica, and were completing the final assembly so that the project could be hoisted on wires and suspended from the cafeteria’s high ceiling until next year’s fifth-grade class completed its own. The usual lunch tables were absent—there’d be no lunch at school since today was a half day—and instead they stood at beige folding tables wearing their fathers’ cast-off dress shirts backwards to avoid messing up their uniforms.

Mickey himself had already started puberty, and his long legs combined with his light musculature made him the fastest runner at Morton Academy. When Mickey kept his mouth shut, running or playing ball, Perry envied the way he impressed everyone—especially the girls. When Mickey talked, though, it was usually to parrot something some dumb grown-up had said.

“You think anyone in Nola could mistake anybody else for Doctor Professor?” Perry asked.

Mickey considered. “Not really,” he said slowly. “But what if it was a trick? What if it was somebody else impressonating him?”

“‘Impersonating,’” Perry corrected without meaning to. “Why would anybody who could play like that pretend to be anybody else?”

“I don’t know,” Mickey said with an irritated shake of his peanut-shaped head. “But it couldn’t be him. It ain’t Mardi Gras, and Jackson is too far uptown for Doctor Professor to just show up there.”

Perry didn’t answer right away. Biting his lip, he finished duct-taping a plastic coat hanger to the top of his abacus and picked it up by the hook, testing the hanger against the sculpture’s weight. The hold seemed more than secure, and he sighed softly at the culmination of his efforts. Carefully, he laid the sculpture on the work table.

“Maybe he didn’t just appear,” he said, still staring at his work. “Maybe he wanted something. Or he was looking for somebody.”

“Like who?”


  • "A hallucinatory wonder of a debut with hints of dark humor and the intellectual challenge of Samuel Delaney. Brimming with language and music, this phantasmagoric novel taps the deep root of multi-cultural, multi-racial life in, and beyond, New Orleans. It’s an electrifying trip with zombie cabbies, sentient blues songs, parading graffiti tags, and the child mages Perilous “Perry” Graves, his sister Brendy and their best friend Peaches who must outwit, outstomp, and outplay to save NOLA’s, their city’s, our city’s, soul."—Walter Mosley, New York Times bestselling author
  • “Alex Jennings did not come here to play. He came to swing, stride, and make prose sing. This novel is funny, wild, witty, and profound. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is the debut of a cosmic storm of talent.” —Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
  • The Ballad of Perilous Graves takes readers on a glorious, gorgeously sinister, and phantasmagorical journey through New Orleans, in the company of an unforgettable hero and a cast of magical characters so real I ached to live in their world.  A stunning debut that is sure to become a classic."—Elizabeth Hand, author of Generation Loss and Hokuloa Road
  • "A wild and wonderful debut, teeming with music, family and art...This book is gorgeously written, with prose I wanted to eat off the page...The effervescent invention of Jennings’s work is dazzling." —New York Times
  • "Stunning... Jennings develops a rich, enveloping world brimming with mesmerizing art, music, and fantasy, and sets within it a rich discussion of community and culture. The unmistakable love for New Orleans that emanates from these pages will stick in readers’ heads—and hearts—like the catchiest of tunes."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • "A spectacularly original re-imagining of the myths and legends of New Orleans brought vividly to life through Jennings' wondrous prose. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is not only an engrossing adventure but a potent homage to the beating heart of one of the world's most magical cities." —Ladee Hubbard, author of The Talented Ribkins
  • "Alex Jennings has composed a beautiful song full of magic and rhythm, darkness and delight. A profoundly gorgeous debut." —Christina Henry, author of Near the Bone and Horseman
  • "The Ballad of Perilous Graves has got to be one of the most amazing books I’ve read in a minute. Magical, lyrical, gritty, otherworldly…sh*t is hype like Bayou Classic in the 90s."—P. Djèlí Clark, author of The Master of Djinn
  • "Jennings weaves a brilliant tapestry... With wonderful imagery—living graffiti and personified songs and zombie nutria—and an emphasis on the importance of family, history, and music, The Ballad of Perilous Graves is a remarkable debut."—Booklist (starred review)
  • "Full to bursting with surreal ideas, gloriously unique characters, unapologetic Blackness, and a soul-deep love for New Orleans and its people."—Vulture, "The Best Fantasy Novels of 2022"
  • "An enchanting, energetic, wild ride of a story set to a staccato melody. The electric prose leaps off the page in a riot of colors and sounds. An astounding debut that will leave readers hungry for more.”—Leslye Penelope, author of The Monsters We Defy
  • "Brimming with heart and imagination, The Ballad of Perilous Graves is a wild, dark and joyful love song to New Orleans, the power of stories, and hope in the face of destruction. A spectacular debut."—H. G. Parry, author of The Magician's Daughter
  • "Like any good trip through New Orleans, The Ballad of Perilous Graves is both magical and musical, the result is a book you both see and hear. In other words, both an unforgettable story and an experience." —Rion Amilcar Scott, author of The World Doesn't Require You: Stories
  • "Vital and appealing, vibrant and propulsive. Alex Jennings weaves together three of my favorite things — music, New Orleans, and magic. The Ballad of Perilous Graves is exactly what I wanted to read."—Kelly Link
  • "Jennings’s post-Katrina haunted NOLA breathes fresh energy into modern Fantasy. His lyrical prose dances to a rhythm all its own."—Stina Leicht, author of Persephone Station
  • "Jennings takes the reader on an intimate tour of New Orleans and her mirror-twin, the equally seductive and even stranger city of Nola. Jennings has an unsurpassed ear for New Orleans dialogue, and his tale is scary, sweet, lyrical, and real."—Poppy Z. Brite
  • "I enjoyed The Ballad of Perilous Graves tremendously. Jennings writes with an energy and a profusion of imagination and vividness that carries you off to a secret New Orleans where music is magic. Brilliant!”—Katherine Addison, author of The Goblin Emperor
  • "This ballad is a true picaresque, an adventure story…It’s an epic quest, a fantasy on a grand scale. It’s a big book in every way—length, vision, and most of all, heart."
     —Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate
  • "Jennings has crafted a world that is warm, strange, loud and colorful, and brimming with magic and heart — this is New Orleans as you’ve never seen before."
     —Apartment Therapy
  • "Jennings’ novel is a love letter to the real-life New Orleans, the power of music, and the bonds of community that hold us all together."
  • "The two worlds of this gripping and inventive fantasy are so vividly depicted that reading it is a bit like taking a fabulous city break."—The Guardian
  • "A literary and music-filled adventure...The Ballad of Perilous Graves is a must read."

  • "The debut novel from an exceptionally creative author, Alex Jennings... [An] audacious, abundantly imaginative novel."

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • “In Alex Jennings’ spectacular debut, the city of New Orleans is transformed into a magical city where musical creatures and spirits, mages, and more flourish within the city’s limits.”—Lightspeed Magazine
  • "New Orleans comes to magical, undead, vibrant life in the pages of this book, which is charged with a cadence that is entirely unique. The line writing of this book is so fantastic, switching in between the perspectives of a young teacher and three child-mages...An incredible, evocative, syrupy book that will not fail to enchant you."—io9
  • "New Orleans is viewed through a fantastic lens in a lyrical novel stuffed with zombies, jazz and a magical Black culture. For readers looking for the next N.K. Jemisin."

    Center for Fiction

On Sale
Jun 21, 2022
Page Count
464 pages

Alex Jennings

About the Author

Alex Jennings is a teacher, author, and performer living in New Orleans. His writing has appeared in, podcastle, The Peauxdunque Review, Obsidian Lit, the Locus Award-winning Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler, and in numerous anthologies.

His debut collection, Here I Come and Other Stories was released in 2012. He also serves as MC and co-producer of Dogfish, a monthly literary readings series. He is a graduate of Clarion West (2003) and the University of New Orleans. He was born in Wiesbaden (Germany) and raised in Gaborone (Botswana), Paramaribo (Surinam), and Tunis (Tunisia) as well as the United States. He is an afternoon person.

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