||Set among the spinning cogs and wheels of a lavish dinner club for the "gastronomical Elect", The Ruins is a black-eyed, Machiavellian fairy tale. Like all fairy tales, it turns on subjection -- the increasingly comic and catastrophic subjection of "ou hero, Tom", a high-minded and half-starved shoeshine boy. Tom shifts for himself in a dank and vaguely apocalyptic city where "the days come and go in a flat, lurid tide, noon and midnight like sullen twins, so indifferently does light distinguish itself from darkness". Easily enticed from the artless squalor of his past into the dazzling and treacherous table politics of The Ruins, our hero soon finds himself at escalating odds with the diabolical proprietor, Jones, "an extravagant if charismatic crackpot". Tom's ill-fated efforts to reform The Ruins -- finally and improbably rewarded at the glittering Fool's Ball -- lead him on a devastating rise and illustrious tumble to humility, humanity, and practical grace. Trace Farrell delivers this highly original first novel with the arch rhetoric and insinuating charm of a seasoned carnival barker.