Melissa Marr, best known for her Wicked Lovely series, is back with another YA urban fantasy series, and it’s definitely one to watch.
Like Wicked Lovely, it takes place in our world, with a darker, hidden reality underneath. In a city of daimons, called The City, a caste system rules the fates of its citizens. It’s an unforgiving system; where you’re born is where you’ll die. There’s no moving within castes and no ability to improve on your situation. But once every few years the daimon leader hosts a tournament in The City; daimons enter brutal fights, often to the death, and the winner is allowed to join the ruling class.
Kaleb is in the lowest class of daimons, and intent on creating a better life for himself, while Aya is part of the ruling class already, but one that does not allow women to serve. She sees an opportunity to make a difference in her world through this tournament.
Meanwhile, Mallory is a seventeen-year-old human girl who lives in the human world, with full knowledge of daimons and witches. Her father has tried to protect her from that other world all her life. He's trained her to use weapons and helped her sharpen her skills as a fighter in order to defend herself should the need arise. But Mallory just wants a normal life. She can’t understand what there is that she needs to hide from, and her father isn’t forthcoming in the least.
Sound complicated? It definitely is. Carnival of Souls is very clearly the first in a series. It plunges the reader into a foreign world that is difficult to understand, with little description or explanation. As the story unfolds, readers are granted small bits of insight into The City and its history, but it never really comes together. It can’t stand alone and needs the rest of the books in the series to make it complete, which can be frustrating for readers, especially given the cliffhanger nature of the ending.
The characters are interesting, to be sure. Readers will probably be the most interested in Kaleb. He’s ruthless, but also sweet. He walks a fine line and takes some pretty big risks over the course of the novel. Dumb risks? Yeah, some of them are. But it’s understandable. Kaleb is truly desperate to make his life better, and this is the only way he can see that happening. Similarly, Ava has her own issues to deal with. Not only is she trying to secure herself a place on the ruling council, but she has secrets that could change the very foundations of her world if they emerged.
Marr does a great job setting up this story, but it almost seems like this book is just an introduction of things to come. While that bodes very well for the rest of the series, especially considering how fantastic the world she’s created has the potential to be, it makes reading this particular book a little less fun. That being said, this is solid urban fantasy. It does have some annoyances, such as a way-too-fast, cheesy romance storyline, but Marr amps everything up and raises the stakes continuously. The characters are realistic and it’s refreshing to see how smart and savvy they are. If you’re looking for an entertaining read that will leave you wanting more, Carnival of Souls is a book you should definitely consider.
Will you read Carnival of Souls