Camp returns to his otherworldly New Orleans of The City of Lost Fortunes for a new novel that evokes the magic, mystery, and mythology of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods with a female protagonist that calls to mind the power and personality of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black (Blackbirds).
Renaissance Raines has found her place among the psychopomps—the guides who lead the souls of the recently departed through the Seven Gates of the Underworld—and done her best to avoid the notice of gods and mortals alike. But when a young boy named Ramses St. Cyr manages to escape his foretold death, Renai finds herself at the center of a deity-thick plot unfolding in New Orleans. Someone helped Ramses slip free of his destined end—someone willing to risk everything to steal a little slice of power for themselves.
Is it one of the storm gods that’s descended on the city? The death god who’s locked the Gates of the Underworld? Or the manipulative sorcerer who also cheated Death? When she finds the schemer, there’s gonna be all kinds of hell to pay, because there are scarier things than death in the Crescent City. Renaissance Raines is one of them.
When Death comes, he carries a tool for harvesting grain slung over his shoulder, his skeletal form swallowed by a billowing black cloak. And she descends from the heavens astride a magnificent horse, blood-flecked armor glinting in the light of a battlefield sunset, to carry a fallen warrior away to an everlasting feast. And he leads the way to the Scales of Judgment with his human arms stretched wide in welcome, while his scavenger’s eyes stare down the length of his jackal’s muzzle, weighing and hungry. And she waits—?either hideously ugly or unspeakably beautiful depending on the way you lived your life—on the far side of a bridge that is either a rainbow or the Milky Way or both, a span that is either treacherous and thin as a single plank of wood, or wide and sturdy and safe, whichever you have earned. They are sparrows and owls, dolphins and bees, dogs and ravens and whippoorwills. They are the familiar faces of ancestors who have gone before, they are luminous beings of impossible description, and they are the random firings of synapses as the fragile spark of life fades to nothing. He is a moment all must experience. She is a figure to be both feared and embraced. They are the concept that rules all others; a constant, like entropy, like the speed of light. Death is both an end and a transition. Simultaneously a crossing over and the guide on that journey, one that is unique to each individual and yet the same for all. Death is able to be every one of these and more—all at once without conflict or contradiction—because death is the end of all conflicts, is beyond contradictions. Both nothing and everything.
The only thing Death has never been is lonely.
One of those many contradictions, a young woman named Renaissance Raines, waited for death in a neighborhood dive bar named Pal’s, scratching the label off a warm half-finished bottle of Abita with her thumbnail, unnoticed and sober and bored. She sat in one of the high-backed swivel chairs at the long bar that took up most of the main room, facing a back-lit altar of liquor bottles that glowed beneath a couple of flat-screen TVs and the chalkboards advertising drink specials. The wall behind her held a few small, two-person tables that were empty in the early afternoon but wouldn’t stay that way for much longer. Bright blue walls rose to a high orange ceiling illuminated by lights that tapered down to points in a way that reminded Renai of spinning tops. The life of the bar shifted around her—the electronic jingle and chirp of the digital jukebox in the corner, the brash, too-loud laughter coming from the handful of mostly white college kids playing air hockey in the back, the warmer, subdued conversation between a quartet of locals, an older black couple, a white woman holding a tiny, trembling dog, and a middle-aged Native American guy bellied up to the bar, a swirl of cigarette smoke in the air, the soft whir of ceiling fans overhead—and though breath filled her lungs and blood pulsed in her veins, she was as a ghost to all of it. She spoke to no one, shared no one’s companionable silence, sent no texts to check on anyone’s arrival, made no attempts to catch a stranger’s eye. If anyone looked at Renai long enough to really see her—her dark brown skin taut with youth and free of laugh or frown lines, her full cheeks that dimpled with the slightest of smiles, her loose coils of hair, usually allowed to hang down along her jawline but today pulled and wound into a bun on each side of her head, her slender runner’s frame lost in the depths of a thick leather jacket despite the heat that still hadn’t relaxed its grip even in late October—they’d wonder if she was old enough to drink the beer in her hand. She knew nobody would, though.
Most people didn’t really seem to notice her at all these days. She hadn’t gotten carded when she came in, no one had stopped her when she’d slipped behind the counter and taken a beer from the cooler. If she took her hand off the bottle and left it on the counter, the bartender would scoop it up and drop it in the trash. If she switched chairs to sit right next to the locals—?or even leaned in between them—so long as she didn’t touch them, they’d keep talking as if she wasn’t there. If she interrupted, if she tapped someone on the shoulder, if she shattered one of the TVs with a thrown glass and shrieked with all her might, they’d see her, briefly, giving her the unfocused, confused look of a person shaken awake.
A Publishers Weekly Book of the Week, May 20
"Honestly, I wasn’t sure how author Bryan Camp was going to follow The City of Lost Fortunes – it was one of my favorite books of 2018. But I am glad to report that he manages quite well, thank you very much... Under his care, the swirling milieu of the Crescent City’s colors and cultures – both sacred and profane – come to shambling and glorious life...a masterful work by a brilliant new author. As long as the quality of the writing stays this good, I hope there are many more Crescent City novels to come."
"Camp’s prose is suspenseful and rich with feeling, highlighting an incredible heroine. VERDICT: Full of magic and numerous mythologies but still tied to the lush New Orleans setting, this Crescent City is one readers will not want to leave."
—Library Journal, STARRED
"Savory...Renai’s second outing is as raucous as her first, and the magic is just as double-edged and slippery... Renai is a real standout of a heroine, a powerful African-American woman cutting through bad or desperate situations in living and dead realms of increasing chaos, armed with snark, courage, and a storm of magic drawn from deep within her. This will be a feast for all lovers of urban and dark fantasy."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED
"The second Crescent City book (after The City of Lost Fortunes, 2018) once again displays Camp's ability to weave different mythological beliefs in fascinating ways. Readers will relate to Renai as she learns her most trusted guides are unreliable in this fast-paced urban fantasy."—Booklist, STARRED
"In this second installment of his Crescent City urban fantasy series, Camp raises the stakes and broadens the scope of his alternate world...the richness and inventiveness of Camp's vision and the vivacity, warmth, and compassion of his leading woman keep you alert to whatever's happening next. As with the real New Orleans, once you leave this creepier but just as colorful variant, you'll be eager to go back."—Kirkus Reviews
"What a joy it is to return to Bryan Camp's weird, dark, vivid, gorgeous magical New Orleans. Highly recommended!" —Sam J. Miller, award-winning author of Blackfish City
“The magic and mythological heft of Bryan Camp’s debut doesn’t lose any momentum in Gather the Fortunes. He captures the essence and resilience of a still healing New Orleans by digging into the parts of a city too often ignored by the well-to-do and powerful. If The City of Lost Fortunes was a love letter to New Orleans then its next installment is an Earl King blue’s song.”—Brent Lambert, editor at FIYAH Magazine
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