Book Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
Melissa Marr never disappoints when she writes dark paranormal fantasy—but in Carnival of Souls she is at her absolute best. A thoroughly original spin on demons (or daimons here) and witches, it transports the reader to an entrancing and fully immersive world of danger, magic, and epic competition experienced on a personal scale.
The writing style is a witches brew of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor, and Cassandra Clare, while still feeling very much like a Marr novel. (In short, freaking awesome.)
The first book in a new series, Carnival of Souls sets up the world and its dramas, both mega (witches and daimons hating each other, continually plotting each other’s doom) and minor (“I LOVE him but he’s standing in my way!”) for future books. This is definitely a keeper of a YA series, and we eagerly await book two.
What we ♥ about Carnival of Souls:
Ruthless Death Tournament
Fighting to the death to improve your station in an unforgiving, dangerous world of rigid castes is such a cool premise. It’s like if the Hunger Games was full of volunteers—and not the dramatic, “gaaaah….I volunteer!” to save your sister type; more like the “Sign me UP Effie! This arena can’t even handle me! I mean, YOLO, amiright? Victor’s Village 2012!!” type.
Instead of focusing on one combatant (and having our breathless rooting decided for us), Marr presents several competitor’s stories. One of the only female competitors, Aya, already belongs to the ruling class, but she’s doomed to an existence of making daimon babies and doing high-born lady things. She dreams of ruling The City, changing it for the better, and she won’t let anyone—even her former betrothed Belias—stand in her way. Belias enters the tournament to protect Aya, and he hopes to convince her to withdraw and find some way of accepting her noble life (…and yeah, eventually making daimon babies). Kaleb is a cur, almost the bottom of the daimon food chain, and he is desperately fighting to improve the lives of his small pack so they don’t have to sell themselves and wear the masks of the carnival.
Your alliances will most likely shift around at least a couple times while reading—deciding who to root for is part of the thrill.
Love—It’s Complicated and Sometimes Starcrossed
What could be more dramatic than two competitors, still in love, fighting against each other, probably to the death? Aya doesn’t want to have to kill Belias, but she can’t back down—not when she’s so close to a freedom and level of ruling power no female daimon has ever known. Their relationship is complicated, and about to get more so.
Kaleb is assigned to follow and ultimately assassinate Mallory, a daimon girl living in a witch household in the human world. She doesn’t know she’s a daimon, a very important one, at that. What should be an easy black mask job turns complicated when he begins to develop feelings for her.
Secrets and Lies
There are so many people lying and scheming in the city, and the masks assassins and pleasure workers wear in the Carnival adds to a secret, dangerous world of lives bought and sold, and favors traded. It seems everyone is hiding something, and it is great fun to unravel the surprises. I suspect many secret eggs were laid in this book for future plot discovery.
Shocker, right? This always been Marr’s strong suit. She can make us care about the iciest ice queen, and empathize with seriously rotten behavior. Sure there are characters in Carnival of Souls that you’d love to throttle, but then they unravel some hidden motivation later on in the book that endears them to you. Without spoiling any of the plot, let’s just say that Marr handles multiple points of view beautifully, and her characters reveal themselves to us gradually, in the best possible way.
The daimon haven of The City is a gritty, dark, fascinating world—one I’m content to see from afar. The Carnival of Souls, the Night Market, and the Untamed Lands provide thrilling danger and intrigue, and Marr never info dumps to get us into the world fully; it just seems to effortlessly form around us.
Watch the trailer: