Book Review: Carnival of Souls
By: Melissa Marr
Goodreads Score: 3.7
My Score: 3.7 (right on, Goodreads)
Highlights: Interesting Plot, Good Action to Romance ratio, Aya
Points of Interest: Told from multiple perspectives (mainly from Aya, Mallory, and Kaleb’s viewpoints, but with snippets of Belias, as well)
Once every generation, a brutal, bloodthirsty competition is held in the City, a land where daimons live, and witches are condemned. The competition takes place in the center of the city, at a location named the carnival, and pits daimons of all castes against each other, with one winner gaining the opportunity to rule in the City’s government, and be raised from whatever life they were living before. Kaleb, Aya, and Belias all enter the competition, but for vastly different reasons. One for a chance at a better life, one to hide a deadly secret, and one to do anything to protect the daimon he loves.
Meanwhile, in the Human world, Mallory lives under constant vigilance. Born in the City, her mother gave everything she had to put Mallory under the protection of the powerful witch, Adam. Adam has spent the last seventeen years guarding Mallory and making sure that the past she fled from in the City doesn’t catch up to her. However, as Mallory’s eighteenth birthday grows closer, even the Human world cannot sever itself from the City, and there are forces there that are willing to do anything to bring her back…
Told from multiple perspectives, Carnival of Souls weaves the different plot lines that occur in the City and the Human world into one, making sure that the decadence and danger that is the carnival leaves no one untouched.
Usually my opinion differs at least a little bit from the Goodreads score, but surprisingly, this time I seem to be an average of everyone else. There were a lot of things I liked about this book, paired with a few things that I didn’t, as well as the general feeling that although I enjoyed reading it, I wouldn’t hunt down the sequel.
The concept of the book is cool. The idea of the carnival, where pleasure and murder can be bought with enough coin, is creepy and compelling, although these things weren’t center stage in the story. Carnival of Souls is told in multiple perspectives, and I can say confidently that my least favorite persepctive was Mallory’s. I felt like the gist of every single chapter of hers could have been condensed into ten, maybe fifteen pages, and on the whole she was just boring to me. And her fighting skills annoyed me. Here is a girl that has trained her whole life learning to fight, and who is faster and stronger than the average human…but I would not be surprised at all if a kid with two lessons of martial arts tucked under his belt could kick her ass. I mean, seriously–she didn’t come out tops in a single confrontation.
Luckily, Aya’s viewpoint was a reprieve from the dullness that took place in the human world. She was a tough, relentless heroine who’s both ruthless and experienced, and who could probably crush Mallory with her scowl alone. At first I was a little taken aback by the lengths that Aya would go to win the competition, especially when it came to betraying her one love. I didn’t think I could get behind the forcefulness of her motives, although I was prepared to enjoy her side of the story. That’s why it was a surprising journey to find myself liking her and understanding her more and more as the book went on. Her storyline was the one that I liked the most, and if I were to read the sequel, my request would be to just focus on Aya ninety percent of the time and have a shout-out from Mallory at the very end.
The third main character, Kaleb, gave me mixed reactions. I liked reading his viewpoints, but it was less because I liked him and more because the things that were going on were interesting. Daimons are kind of like a cross between really strong humans and shape shifters (I think, in any case…), and living in the City the lowest castes of daimons are treated horribly and forced to either kill or whore themselves out for money. Kaleb is one of those low-caste daimons, and he’ll do anything to protect his pack mate Zevi, who despite being quite strong and fast and generally an awesome character, is treated by Kaleb as incredibly fragile. Kaleb has been assigned to watch over (and possibly kill) Mallory, but of course he ends up falling in love with her.
The love between Kaleb and Mallory was possibly my least favorite aspect of the book. Similar to the way Kaleb feels tied to Zevi, his pack mate, Kaleb feels connected to Mallory. It was Insta-Love to the max, and it irritated me because that’s all it was. It just felt shallow, rushed, and forced. And towards the end of the book Kaleb does what could go down in history as the worst decision ever, showing yet again that Kaleb may care about many people, but he sure doesn’t give a damn regarding their feelings and opinions.
All in all, though, I would recommend Carnival of Souls, especially for those looking for a book that’s a bit darker than a lot of fantasy worlds out there. I thought the world Marr constructed could have been further explored–many subjects were just touched on again and again, making them wide but not very deep–but I wasn’t disappointed with what I got. I tried one other book–Wicked Lovely–by Melissa Marr and I felt basically the same way. I think her ideas are always interesting, and I never regret reading her books, but would I go out of my way for another of hers? Well, meh.
What have you guys been reading lately? Have you checked out Carnival of Souls? Let me know in the comments below!