Publisher: HarperCollins UK.
Release date: September 4th 2012.
Paperback, 306 pages.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Emily.In a city of daimons, the Carnival of Souls hosts a deadly competition. Once in a generation, every citizen can fight to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures—if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
In our own world, Mallory knows that her father—and every other witch—fled the daimons’ city long ago. She trains to be lethal because it’s only a matter of time until the daimons catch up with them.
While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans there for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence that is the Carnival of Souls.
As a big fan of the Wicked Lovely series, I was both excited and nervous to read Carnival of Souls, which is the first part of what promises to be a darkly fascinating series that explores forbidden romance in a world where daimons and witches are at odds. Before I began I wondered if I would meet a new set of characters I could love as much as Ash and Seth and Niall. Or would I be disappointed due to high expectations? Turns out I was right about both of those things. Carnival of Souls had some flaws, but overall it was an enjoyable reading experience and I for one will be coming back for more.
In this instalment, we get to know Mallory, Kaleb and Aya, and see their lives as they know them unravel. 17-year-old Mallory believes she is human. She’s been raised by her adoptive father, who is a powerful witch, and they are both on the run from daimons. Mallory trains for the day when she might need to fight them, but right now she’s more interested in Kaleb than fighting. Kaleb and Aya are both daimons who have entered a gruelling competition to fight for a chance to join the ruling elite. Aya has entered the competition as a way to avoid marriage and breeding, in an attempt to keep her secret from being revealed. Kaleb makes a living from “black mask” work, and his latest job is to track Mallory.
I loved seeing the different strands of the story come together, but I definitely preferred reading this book when it took place in The City. This is because Marr does a wonderful job of describing the atmosphere of the carnival and I could picture it all vividly. Here’s a taste:
“The carnival pulsed in the center of The City – a swirl of masked pleasure and violence. Music played constantly as the dancers demonstrated their flexibility. At times it was a glorious cacophony. Jugglers and fire-twirlers showed their skills in time to the music. All around the carnival, transactions of varying degrees of legality and ethical questionability were happening. The City wasn’t a world that seemed beautiful to everyone. It was their world, though.” – from the cover of the ARC.
As for the characters, Kaleb was definitely my favourite. He has an interesting past and I loved his connection with Zevi. Beyond her early POV chapters, I lost interest in Aya. She had potential to be a really interesting character, but her story was diluted to a generic forbidden romance. I also found it difficult to connect to Mallory. She was bland and I still feel like I don’t really know her. What are her interests, other than Kaleb? I hope we get to know her better in the sequel.
As is expected from a book written by Melissa Marr, romance takes up quite a lot of the storyline. In Carnival of Souls the kissing scenes felt contrived and a little wooden. The most interesting things about this book are the witches and daimons, and gruesome fights at the Carnival of Souls, but in the end it became a story about forbidden love. I guess I’m tired of that trope and would’ve liked to have seen less of it in this novel. I want to see Marr go beyond that in her future books, because her world-building skills and interesting characters prove she’s capable of doing that. I want to see something really gutsy from this author.
The ending made me feel as if this book was a just a set-up for the sequel, where all the really juicy action will take place (I hope). Now that we’ve been introduced to all the characters and their back stories, and now that they all know each other, I think the sequel will prove to be a more satisfying read than Carnival of Souls. However, fans of Marr’s other work will find lots to love about this book and it is definitely worth picking up if you’re in the mood for a dark paranormal romance.