Today’s team review is from Jenni. Find her here https://jenniferdebie.com/
It is the final week of Mardi Gras and the guides of Spirits of Yore ghost tours have a story for you. Walk the crumbling streets, stay on the sidewalks, don’t lean on the buildings, and listen as the history of the French Quarter unfolds through the ghosts who haunt its streets, and the guides who keep their tales alive.
Each chapter of Ariadne Blayde’s Ash Tuesday follows a different guide as they struggle with their personal demons, celebrate their small triumphs, and share their favorite ghost stories with the tourists who deign to wander their city for a short spell. As with any great novel set in an old city, Ash Tuesday makes New Orleans herself, with all her chaotic beauty and horror, as much a character as any person walking the page. Blayde lives and New Orleans, and has worked as a tour guide in the Quarter, and her obvious knowledge of the geography of the city, the kinds of people it attracts and repels, and the kinds of ghosts that linger there is obvious in every line.
This is a book for lovers of New Orleans, lovers of ghost stories, and lovers of history, but more than that it’s a story for lovers of people. The net of characters, tour guides, acquaintances, sometimes-rivals, frenemies, and lovers that Blayde brings to life are wholly unique, each with their own, rich lives that readers are privileged to see. The good, the bad, the baffling, and the in-between all come to life (or death) between the covers of Ash Tuesday, and the inescapable humanity of it all is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.
Blayde is an author with an ear for dialogue, a heart for creating characters, and enough grit under her fingernails to get the texture of her setting right. There are dozens of canned phrases to throw around about how spectacular Ash Tuesday is, but at the end of the day the highest praise I can offer is: I bought a copy of this book for someone I love.
Ash Tuesday is a novel worth sharing, and this reviewer can only be grateful that Blayde chose to share it with the world.
Giving ghost tours on the decaying streets of the French Quarter isn’t exactly a high-profile career, but the guides at Spirits of Yore Haunted Tours are too strange and troubled to do anything else. They call themselves Quarter Rats, a group of outcasts and dreamers and goths who gather in hole-in-the-wall bars to bicker, spin yarns, and search for belonging in the wee hours of the night after the tourists have staggered home.
Through the ghost stories they tell, their own haunted lives come into focus. Like the city they call home, these tour guides are messy with contradiction: they suffer joyfully, live morbidly, and sin to find salvation.
Weaving together real New Orleans folklore with the lives of eleven unforgettably vibrant characters, Ash Tuesday is a love letter to America’s last true bohemia and the people, both dead and living, who keep its heart beating.