Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Romance?, AWESOME
Publication Date: September 4, 2012 (HarperTeen – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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.
☆: 5/5 stars – absolutely brutal, unforgiving, and gorgeous!
Review: YOU GUYS, THIS BOOK. THIS. This is more of the viciousness that I craved within the “Wicked Lovely” series but didn’t quite get, and I get all of it in this first volume of what has to be at least a duology (please god, please) of books. Books like this are what keep me hopeful for YA and New Adult’s future – it’s beautiful, it’s horrible, it’s delicious, it’s sumptuous, and utterly glorious. Marr feels like a whole new writer in “Carnival of Souls”, and I seriously can’t wait to get my paws on the second book, whenever it might come out. Like “Fight Club” but wish it had more magical reality added to it? “Carnival of Souls” is your book.
Though her “Wicked Lovely” series, I think it’s safe to say that Marr has conquered the challenge for great YA fantasy lit – that is, worldbuilding. She very slowly but surely got better at it and built it up in that series of six books, but with “Carnival of Souls”, she hits us all at once with two parallel worlds/universes: that of The City and Earth. Daimons (Demons or shapeshifting fey, I’m guessing?), Witches, and Humans all fight for supremacy over these two worlds, and the results are awesome. ALL of the characters (be them human, daimon, or witch) weave very cleanly back into the world of The City, and through her masterful use of sensory language and imagery, really gets across the beautiful horror that is this parallel world.
The characters: What I think I love about this is that we don’t have a romance forced on us between two (or more), characters. We have a wonderful set of MCs, though I felt that out of all of them, Kaleb was the most developed, with Mallory in second and then Aya in third. It felt a little uneven there, but because of how the relationship web was put together (I’ve talked about this before in reviews – it’s also a type of worldbuilding where it’s all about where you place character A, how they relate to character B, and how both of them relate to C, and so forth) and with the desperate hope/knowledge that there had to be a book two coming, I was satisfied with what I got. The relationship web was awesomely done, but I do want to see it stretch out further in book two on the witch side of things. The daimon side was the most developed, but I wanted more on the witches. Nevertheless, all of the characters that got POV time (even the most minor ones) were extremely well-rounded and felt like real people. It was like I was sitting next to them or watching them at the fights – it was that exciting. Marr has been known for her character creation for characters you want to root for (or despise), and she has created a wonderful set of misfits for everyone to enjoy in this book.
Now, a question – how does one classify this book (aside from awesome)? Is it older YA? Or is it New Adult (the new genre where it’s just a little over the YA threshold for content but not quite an adult-genre book, either)? I would say that Marr very slyly straddles the boundaries for both genres with her careful use of certain words and of certain types of content within the book. NA could use some new blood, and this one definitely fills that slot. I question this because the relationship web left me wondering – is Zevi in love with Kaleb (not just having “pack”/familial feelings for him)? If Kaleb considers Mallory “pack” through his romantic love toward her, how would one categorize the end product? Would it count as incest? Not that it’s actually proclaimed as such – it’s left all very fuzzy and up to the reader, a wonderful way to craft this story. By leaving a lot of this content ambiguous, Marr’s able to claim purchase in both spots. And I love her for being able to do that.
All of that being said, this book is definitely not for young YA readers. This is a dark book, but it glows luminously all throughout. I really enjoyed it, and applaud Marr for bringing a lot more darkness to YA/NA when it’s needed the most, when it’s trying to figure out what it is as a genre.
Final verdict? If you’re a Marr fan, you simply must check out this newest book. If you’re not a Marr fan, check it out anyway! “Carnival of Souls” will be out September 4, 2012 from HarperTeen in North America. It’s made my best of 2012 list and it’s definitely a MUST READ for anyone. Seriously, it’s that awesome.