Back in June when I attended BEA, everyone I came into contact with was going crazy over the prospect of getting an advance copy of Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr. It seemed like it was at the top of everyone’s list, and everyone was dying for a sneak peak! I quickly found myself being wrapped up in the excitement too and was soon waiting in line with strong anticipation in my heart. And I must say, there is a very good reason why everyone was so excited for this book, it is absolutely fantastic!
Carnival of Souls starts out with a page turning prologue, and never really lets you down afterwards. In the prologue you learn that a daimon named Selah has just had a baby with the most powerful man in the city, whose heirs always mysteriously wind up getting killed off. In order to protect her daughter, Selah gives her to a witch named Adam, who promises to protect her at all costs even if it means sacrificing himself in the war between daimons and witches. Very intriguing, right? As the story progresses, you learn there are three central characters to focus in on: Mallory, who is the daimon child who doesn’t know she’s a daimon child and who as been raised by a witch; Kaleb, who is the love interest and filled with angst and secrets; and Aya, who is a female daimon fighting for the right to be on the council. All three character’s stories are very intertwined, and all of them make for epic story telling.
Carnival of Souls is told in the three separate points of view of the main characters, and is spilt between two settings: the City, and the real human world. The City is a parallel universe where daimons live. Within in this universe, there is a severe caste system which is upheld up a series of legal laws, including the fact that murder is basically legal, and often ignored if committed by those in higher power. Each year there is a cage match competition where competitors duel until the death, and the winner of the competition gets a place on the city counsel. The cage match is the only way an individual is able to change their social status. If they win, it does not matter which part of the caste system they are from, they are able to be on the council. There is an exception of this rule of course, and it is based on gender. A female is not allowed to rule, and is instead expected to be a wife and a breeder for children. Aya does not agree with this planned lifestyle, and has ideas on how to change it, so she enters herself in the competition entirely willing to sacrifice herself to accomplish her goal.
Carnival of Souls is definitely a fast paced read. There were times when I could not put this book down because I had to know what happened! I really enjoyed the switching of the perspectives between the three characters. It kept things refreshing, and allowed for more interconnectivity between the characters. I also enjoyed the way that Melissa Marr didn’t spoon feed anything to the reader. The reader had to define things for themselves, and kind of read between the lines at times. The textual clues are fantastic! Also, the writing has a nice blend of gritty darkness mixed with calmer passages where you knew something was coming but you weren’t exactly sure what it was going to be. I really feel like this writing style helped me connect better with the story, and feel more of an attachment to the characters.
Of the three main characters of Carnival of Souls, Aya was my favorite. This girl is the real deal. She recognizes everything that is wrong with the caste system within the city, and is determined to fix it. She does not let her presumed role as a female take her down. Instead she is willing to work harder and sacrifice more if it means that she is able to win. Also, all her commentary about women’s rights made me seriously fangirl over her, especially when she was talking about their right to be impregnated against their will. At times she could be a bit brutal but as you learn more about her, it is not hard at all to see where she is coming from. She has a heart, and a mind, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that she is able to be free to use both as she pleases.
In a close second place of the favorite character ranking is Kaleb. He is in the lowest class of a daimon, and has entered the cage match competition as a hope to make a better life for himself and his packmate Zevi. Kaleb is very angst filled but it was very compelling to read. He is filled with secrets all of which somewhat explain his actions but still at times leave you with more questions. He is not without flaws which to me I think make his interactions with Mallory even more gripping to read. He has made mistakes, and as I said before, he has secrets … one of the biggest being that it is no accident that he has entered her life but, I couldn’t help but empathize with him. He really is trying to do his best given the circumstances that he is working with, and he wants to change but has never really been given the opportunity to do so before.
Mallory wasn’t my favorite character but she also had moments of clarity. At first I thought she was a little young and a little naïve but, I came to realize that this was because of the way that she was raised. She has been kept in the dark her entire life about who, and what she really is. Also, she is a bit of a loner due to her lifestyle. I did really enjoy reading things from Mallory’s perspective once she started questioning her “father”, and the way that she was raised, and what was happening to them. Actually, I would have liked to see more of that but, the pieces I was able to read about were nice to see too.
When I finished Carnival of Souls, I was almost immediately filled with a familiar sense of anticipation. It bared a striking resemblance to the one that I got when I was at BEA, and heard everyone first talking about the book. Except now that I’ve entered the carnival…I want more. I need more stunning world building. I need more epic breakdowns of class systems, and women’s rights especially on how no one should have a say in what a woman does with her own body. I need more angst, manipulating secrets, and even romance! I need it all … and I will wait however long it takes to make it happen. I am just that dedicated.
Disclosure: Received advance copy at BEA
Other reviews of Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr:
Girls in the Stack: “You guys!!!!! *flails* This book!!!! *flails again*”