An extraordinary new world, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series. Enter the Carnival...In a city of daimons, strict class lines control every aspect of life. At the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls where, once in a generation, anyone can fight for their chance to join the elite. Kaleb is of the lowest caste; Aya is ruling caste - but female. They both face bleak futures and, for each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live. Mallory lives in the human world and knows little of The City, beyond the threat it poses her and her family. But soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls...Combining Melissa Marr's extraordinary world-building, breathtaking action, secrets, love and the struggle to forge one's own destiny, Carnival of Souls will blow your mind and win your heart.
Melissa Marr is a staple of YA reading, and I own her other series, Wicked Lovely, even though I haven't read them yet (fairies and I don't always mix very well). I wasn't sure what to expect when going in to this one, though I had heard good things on the blogosphere. I actually picked it up because it was new in at my local library, which really surprised me because of how soon it is after its release date - note to self, don't underestimate the library.
I'll try and set the premise up a little for you: The story is split between two worlds, the Human world where Witches are banished to and Mallory and her Witch father Adam live, and The City, where the 'Daimons' live. The Carnival of Souls refers to a part of and place in the story that I thought wasn't explored enough to warrant being the title. It's basically a Competition that citizens enter where they either kill their opponent or force them to forfeit in order to become one of the top ranking members of The City's government. Mallory is actually a Daimon child who is given at birth to the Witches as a sleight against her true father Marchosias (a stupid name that really annoyed me to read). Kaleb is then hired as an assassin to return her to her father in the Daimon world or kill her.
I've got to admit that I wasn't particularly thrilled with this book. It felt a little bland. Although it gives a good explanation of the Night Market and all the thrills it offers, it didn't give much weight to anything else. The characters were fun, likeable, but flat. Almost no description was given as to how any of them looked and without really establishing them I found myself not caring after a while. The narrative was split in too many different directions and tried to cover too many things. It didn't explore each thread enough for me before pulling them all together. By the time the two worlds begin to collide I wasn't 'Team Anyone' or cared who won. Everything moved so quickly it was like skimming over the top. Plus almost nothing happens.
I'm not completely slating this book, I just didn't really care for it. It has the basis to be something brilliant, but I didn't feel like I was given enough to invest in. Even my pet hate of characters falling hopelessly in love after 2 minutes was neutralised by Mallory spelling out the fact that no one can love any one after first meeting them. Love takes time to establish, so even though Marr annoyed me by putting it in in the first place, I was able to look upon it as a pastiche of fairytale love and forgive her. Slightly.
It probably does have some redeemable features but I felt that the story went the wrong way for me. It follows the storyline that a lot of other YA fantasy has taken - girl doesn't know her lineage, gets put in danger, is saved by (presumably, because I don't actually know what he looks like) handsome guy and goes on to be big tough warrior. I would rather have heard about the battles, the Carnival, and what glorious debauchery goes on in the Night Market. I guess I have been somewhat spoilt by the adult historical fantasy I have been reading of late, but I hope this doesn't mean that my interest for YA fantasy is weaning.