TITLE: Carnival of Souls
AUTHOR: Melissa Marr
LENGTH: 306 pages
SUMMARY: (via goodreads.com) In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance 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.
All Mallory knows of The City is that her father–and every other witch there–fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it’s only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable.While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.
REVIEW: This is a gritty read. While many book series currently deal with demons/daimons, witches, and the like, Marr’s world is a much seedier version of these overlayed fantasy realms. The City is a world in turmoil where “race relations” and the peace between the daimons and the witches are incredibly tense. The caste system in this society is highly structured and missteps are punishable by death. Readers will feel that even the justice meted out by Marchosias, while technically “fair” by the letter of the law, seems somehow tarnished just by being carried out in such violent ways. The Carnival of Souls does not sound like a place one would visit willingly: hiring assassins, buying illegal substances or flesh, gambling, selling oneself for any number of deeds would seem to only be desperate business.
Enter the characters; each one unique in his/her own way. Marchosias: formerly part of the lower class Curs, now having seized power in the Ruling Class. Mallory: Marchosias’s daughter who has been hidden away from him by the witches – and even hidden away from herself. Kaleb: the Cur with a glimmer of gold in his heart who accomplishes good deeds through evil means. Aya: the Ruling Class damsel with a secret. Zevi: the Cur from the Untamed Lands who keeps Kaleb grounded. Balias: the Ruling Class fighter once betrothed to Aya who must fight to win her heart and save his own life. All of these characters stand out starkly during reading. They have their own cadences in dialogue and their own mental and physical obstacles to overcome in meeting their goals. I was even happy to see that, in the human world, Mallory has a parent who is present and involved in her life. The fact that Adam is keeping her in the dark about her parentage creates a perfect over-protective-parent scenario that many teens may relate to. Marr has done an excellent job crafting believable, relatable characters in a fantastical setting. Through the characters, one believes The City and all its sparkling danger is real.
The plot is complex without being confusing. The emotional conflicts the characters face are real and the lies and truths they tell themselves to navigate through these conflicts will be all too familiar to most teens. Marr also does an excellent job with setting up the next book in the series without prolonging the ending of the first book. Readers won’t recognize the typical “wrap-up” as they near the end of the book. The story simply drops off after Mallory’s decision is made. Anxiosly awaiting the second book, fans may find themselves rereading just to stay in The City.
READERS: This text is perfect for mature readers (9th and up) who enjoy fantasy that melds with “real life”. This will appeal to fans of action and romance as it has threads of each but neither is overwhelming.
OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book might also like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, or The Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare