The Saturnalia carnival marks three years since Nina walked away from Philadelphia’s elite Saturn Club—with its genteel debauchery, arcane pecking order, and winking interest in alchemy and the occult. In doing so, she abandoned her closest friends and her chance to climb the social ladder. Since then, she’s eked out a living by telling fortunes with her Saturn Club tarot deck, a solemn initiation gift that Nina always considered a gag but has turned out to be more useful than she could have ever imagined.
Feldman uses ecological collapse as a backdrop for a chilling tale of alchemy and corruption ... The constant awareness of a world on fire lends an extra layer of dread as a deadly monster stalks Nina, who finds something equally monstrous inside the box she’s trying to steal. But even as Nina uncovers the depths to which some of her former friends are willing to stoop, she also rekindles one friendship that she realizes she threw away too lightly. (It is troubling, though, that the book’s trans character is referred to by her former name and pronoun in pre-transition flashbacks.) Saturnalia is both dazzlingly inventive and full of spine-tingling menace.
... a twisted, ethereal dispatch from a climate change point of no return ... The novel revels in absurdities, especially the insatiability of those with money and power, even as indulgence ensures a faster arrival at their ends. It exposes the dark sides of glamour and the blind spots of dark magic: Nina’s former compatriots find a way to create life from nothing, but forego awe in their rush to exploit their creation. And amid these whorling wonders emerges the ache that Nina tried to suppress—the result of violence as banal and life-altering as the greed that threatens to destroy the world around her ... a piquant, eerie, and alarming tale.
Tense and suspenseful, Saturnalia features strong world building and a fully realized heroine. The down-on-her-luck protagonist navigating a system of secretive clubs will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House (2019), while the book may also draw in readers of climate horror such as Omar El Akkad’s American War (2017) or Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.