“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.”
Thoughts: Melissa Marr is back with a brand-new series. Carnival of Souls explores the world of daimons and witches, two mortal foes that once fought over rights to The City. Their mutual hatred has fueled a violent rigid caste society in which the lowest must fight for their very survival. Kaleb was born into this brutal world, as was Aya. At the same time, Mallory, who was spirited away as a baby and has known nothing but a life among humans, prepares for the day when this unknown world will crash into her own.
Carnival of Souls is very much a novel that does nothing more than set up the rest of the series. It is the foundation upon which future novels will rest. As such, the action is minimal, and the forward progression of the story is slight. Instead, readers get a book about the characters. Rather than diving into action, Ms. Marr takes the time to create multi-faceted characters that readers really understand. Their backstories, their hopes and fears, their weaknesses and strengths – all of this is made clear as the novel builds towards the action that will propel the rest of the series.
As such, the action in Carnival of Souls is insignificant. There is some excitement about each of the battles Aya and Kaleb fight as part of the competition. Other than that, the danger is relatively low, and the tension is nothing but a subtle pulse. This lack of action creates a very different young adult novel, one in which the character development comes first and the action is yet to come.
That is not to say that Carnival of Souls is not without its YA archetypes. A young woman kept clueless as a form of protection? Check. Male romantic lead who immediately falls in love with the hapless young woman? Absolutely. Nefarious leaders on both sides who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims? Of course. Lovable sidekick cum sibling? The story has that too. There is a definite sense of tired familiarity at their use, and one can only hope that the characters deviate from their designated roles in future novels in order to create a story that is original and not just the same story repackaged yet again.
To completely dismiss the series based on Carnival of Souls would be a massive disservice to Ms. Marr and her world of daimons and witches. It appears that she has structured the novel to be an introduction with fully-fleshed characters and without the flashy action that typically permeate first novels. One can only hope that the potential for danger and action at which the end of the story hints truly does come to pass in future stories.
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