September 7, 2012

Review: Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls Book One of the Carnival series
By Melissa Marr
Available now from HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
Review copy courtesy of Krystal of Live To Read
Read my reviews of FRAGILE ETERNITY and RADIANT SHADOWS and my interview with Melissa

I enjoyed the Wicked Lovely series but found it quite inconsistent.  The whole thing was worth reading, but I wished Melissa Marr was on her game for every book in the series.  CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a terrific beginning to an unexpected new series from Marr and I hope she's this explosive in the following books.

CARNIVAL OF SOULS is written in third person, but switches focus between four main characters:  Mallory, Aya, Kaleb, and Belias.  Aya, Kaleb, and Belias are all taking part in a tournament that allows the winner to become part of the ruling class.  Aya was born to the ruling class, but as a woman is expected to bear heirs.  She desperately doesn't want children and enters the tournament to escape her fate and help change the laws governing the land.  Belias, her former betrothed, wants to force Aya to forfeit.  Kaleb is a cur, the lowest class of daimon.  He wants a better life for himself and his packmate Zevi.  Meanwhile, Mallory lives in the human world with her witch foster father.  But all of their lives entwine over the course of CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

Part of the fun of the switch in perspectives is each character knows things that the others don't.  As the book goes on, they begin to learn each others' secrets.  And they are not always pleased to learn the truth.  (Ain't that how it always goes?)  I found all four of them likeable, particularly Aya.  She needs to be ruthless to survive, but she can't help having her soft spots.

I don't want to say too much about the world Marr has created because I had too much fun discovering the details of it and don't want to spoil the experience for anyone else.  Suffice it to say, there are witches, daimons, and humans and each has their own protections.  The majority of the humans are unaware of the witches and daimons, who generally stay in a separate realm.  But the creatures are very aware they were driven to live separately.

CARNIVAL OF SOULS has romance, family drama, fights to the death, intersecting schemes, assassins, and hidden heirs to the throne.  This isn't a vampire-goes-to-high-school urban fantasy.  It's a crazy phantasmagoria exploring how far people will go to protect themselves and those they care about.

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