All the Cheap Thrill Seekers: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Carnival of Souls
By Melissa Marr
320 Pages
Published by HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 4, 2012 (expected)
Source: Around the World Book Tours

From Goodreads:

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.

From Melissa Marr, bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series and “Graveminder,” comes a brand-new tale of lush secrets, dark love, and the struggle to forge one’s own destiny.

Man, I really had to sit and think about how I wanted to review this one. Here’s the thing…there were a LOT of things that bothered me about this book, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that they had nothing to do with the book itself in terms of writing. So I’m going to express as clearly as I can why I liked the book but had many problems with the story, because while our opinions on issues will certainly factor into our enjoyment of a book, I don’t think it’s fair to let my personal issues influence whether or not I’d recommend it to someone else. Make sense? Mkay then.

So first off, I somehow managed to miss that this book was fantasy. How? I don’t know. It doesn’t really seem possible based on the fact that the blurb makes it pretty freaking obvious, but whatever. And I’m not a huge fan of fantasy to begin with.

However! I did think that Melissa Marr did an ah-may-zing job of setting the scene in this book and making it easy for even a fantasy noob like me to follow along.  I’ve said it before, but frequently my problem with fantasy is that I just can’t follow what the hell is going on because there are so many places with crazy names and people with crazy names and it all just kind of jumbles together. Not so here.  Ms. Marr makes the carnival and the world it exists in come to vibrant life. The only complaint I had was that it was a bit repetitive at times…for example, it’s mentioned several times that witches were banished but before they left they made all sorts of trees grow in an attempt to overtake the city as retribution. Fairly minor complaint, though. And to be fair, this was an ARC  so I have no idea how much if any of the repetitive bits will be left in the finished copy.

I also liked the idea of two distinct sides – witches vs. daimons – and while there is some overlap in their world, the two sides are mortal enemies.

Here’s the thing, though – man, I just have such a problem with stories where women are treated like cattle to be given away and bred.  That is one of the main plot lines of this book, and I struggle with it so much. I realize that’s not a fault with the book itself or with the writing and that sometimes we just have to put on our big girl panties and deal if we want to read a good book, but it’s just something I have such a hard time separating out my feelings for. I don’t consider myself a hardcore feminist or anything but these kinds of worlds where women are essentially the property of their fathers and eventually their husbands just get to me on a level that I can’t really explain.  So again, this influenced my feelings about the book but it’s not a failing on the part of the author. If anything, it’s a testament to the writing that it bothered me SO much.

The characters were pretty well done, though the only one I felt much of a connection to was Kaleb. He had the most layers, I thought. He was conflicted by his true nature and the fact that it was often at odds with what he had to do to survive and ensure the survival of his pack mate, Zevi. I  liked Zevi too, though his role in the book was much smaller. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in subsequent books.  I didn’t mind Mallory, but I think I’ll like her more once she’s more of a real person and not such a product of her environment. I don’t want to say any more than that and give away spoilers, suffice it to say that she didn’t have much going on for most of this book on any deep level.

Ms. Marr mentions in the author’s notes that the name of this book was based on lyrics to a song, but all I could think of is that old cult movie from the 1960s with one of the creeepiest characters ever.

The movie wasn’t even scary, but this guy gave me such nightmares.

Regardless of my issues with it, I definitely liked it enough to want to read the sequel. And I would recommend it to others.

3.5/5 Stars

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