Author(s): Melissa Marr
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Publisher/Date: HarperCollins / September 4, 2012
Series: Carnival of Souls (Book #1)
'The difference isn't in how cruel women can be." Aya spoke louder now so that the line of people could hear her again. "If by action you tried to 'remind me' of what place some think a woman deserves, I would break you, but I won't kill you for ignorant words. I can be a lady and still rule. One does not negate the other.'
Case StudyThe Carnival of Souls isn't a place for the faint of heart. Here murder and pleasure reign supreme. Centered in The City where daimons rule, it pays to be either a fierce fighter or one of the ruling class. However, the stakes are upped when a deadly competition open to all daimons affords the winner an opportunity to join the elite few. Kaleb is a contract killer who fights for status in the competition and he will stop at nothing to make his way to the top. Aya is one of the ruling class and she fights for a very different reason --- to protect a deadly secret, one that's keeping her alive. As the competition winds down, the stakes grow higher for Aya and Kaleb because only one of them will come out a victor.
In the human world, Mallory and her adoptive father, Adam, are on the run. Adam's a powerful witch who is hiding something. Trained to fight and kill daimons, Mallory's on a mission to find what it is her father stole and why its so important while still protecting the sanctity of the only family she's ever known. It isn't long though until she's lured in by the temptations of the lethal Carnival of Souls.
The Game's AfootI was really excited to finally pick up Melissa Marr's, Carnival of Souls---the concept was intriguing and it sounded racier than the typical YA fanfare which is something I can totally get down with. I wish I could say I was blown away by it, but sadly, not so much. Though I thought the book was entertaining, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I won't go as far as to say it was bad, because it wasn't, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. It read like an info dump of background information making it seem more like a prequel than the first book in a series. Granted, the extensive world building was necessary and pretty spectacular! Seriously, this is where Marr's strength lies. She has an eye for exquisite details and setting the mood. But for a book so short, it was too much and not enough all at the same time. Does that make any sense?
Carnival of Souls tells several stories simultaneously, alternating between the human/witch world and the daimon world. Several of the characters traverse both of these worlds and their stories become interwoven as the book progresses. But because we're shown a myriad of POV's it's hard to form a discernible connection to many of the characters. I felt no warm fuzzies for Mallory what-so-ever and the insta-love factor was more than ramped up between her and Kaleb, which I totally don't buy. She's more concerned about seeing a boy she barely knows than for her own safety. C'mon, girl! Get some self worth for crying out loud! Mallory's just another one of those needy characters who's reactive instead of proactive. Honestly, I was more intrigued by the daimon realm and its wide variety of personas more than the human/witch one. The characters in the human/witch realm were static much like the events that happen there. I craved the seediness, complexity and mystery that came with the Carnival.
Of all the story lines, my favourite was that of Aya and Belias. Their relationship was believable and theirs was the most complex of the bunch--- they are both strong, dynamic and interesting and their story alone is likely to bring me back for the sequel. Had Marr written more about Aya, Belias and the tournament, it would have made for a much more engaging book, I think. In fact, I'll take an entire book solely based in The City. Give me more of that, please! Another issue I had was with the pacing. It started with a slow trickle of information but as we get closer to the end, everything happens in a short time span and it just feels rushed and somewhat unfinished. I don't know about you, but that ending was a total cop out. Granted, I know there's a sequel and all but it felt like the book was published before Marr got to finish her final thought.
I will say this, one of the things I enjoyed most was that Marr uses the daimon world to touch on class and gender issues and it doesn't come off as heavy handed. I liked that Aya was a character who stepped out of the traditional gender roles and fought for what she believed in despite the negativity it might bring to her. Now I know her situation sort of forced her hand but she was passionate and ruthless when it came to preserving her independence. The girl's got sass and ass-kicking abilities! It's just a shame the entire book didn't share this kind of strength and perseverance. The stronger daimon half of the book was negated by its weaker, human half rendering it mediocre for me. Overall, Carnival of Souls had the potential to really be something great. Unfortunately, that just wasn't the case. However, I am holding out hope that things pick up in Book #2!
Summary PrognosisCarnival of Souls, on the surface, has all the elements of a stellar book--- a provocative locale, paranormal elements, deadly competitions and intrigue. It's unfortunate that, for me, the book didn't quite live up to its potential. While I think the concept is fantastic, its execution leaves little to be desired. It lacked the polish that really takes a story from good to great. Had the storyline been a little more fleshed out, Carnival of Souls might have been a win, but I'll still stick around for the sequel if only to find out what happens to Aya and Belias!
You can preview the first 6 chapters here.
Read It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible
Discuss It: Goodreads | Author's Website