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I’m a twentysomething who loves reading books, whether they’re good or bad. I started out stealing books; now I review them.

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Book review: Melissa Marr's "Carnival of Souls"

Carnival of Souls - Melissa Marr

Full post here!


It’s abundantly clear form the first few chapters what the biggest strength of “Carnival of Souls” is — Marr’s ability to craft a tangled plot criss-crossed with power plays, political maneuvering, and backdoor deals that seem to abound in the tumult of The City. It’s hugely entertaining keeping track of who’s allied to whom, and the constant wheeling and dealing adds another layer of tensions to the one already built-in to the Competition.


It’s also wonderful that the people who populate The City and move the plot along are also such great characters. Aya is a study in complexity, and it’s fascinating to read about her inner conflict as she grapples with her desire for power and respect and her love for her former betrothed, Belias.


Adam, Mallory’s witch stepfather, is a pleasure to read as well. Deeply flawed but also deeply protective of his stepdaughter, her actions throughout the book will have readers raising their eyebrows and maybe even their voices in consternation.


The City, while not as fleshed out as one would like, is still likely to engross readers with its brand of danger and deceit. Pain and pleasure coexist side by side in The City. It’s something its citizens seem to enjoy all the more because of the constant threat of the Untamed Lands knocking right on their doorstep.


Marr should also be commended for the unflinching way that she depicts the savageness that exists in The City. Kaleb and Zevi have had to murder and whore themselves to survive, and Aya is working against a society that is deeply masochistic. Their lives and what they go through may not be pretty to look at, but one certainly can’t look away.


“Carnival of Souls” does have some missteps, foremost of which is the character of Mallory. It’s hard to root for her the way Marr has written her — someone devoid of her own choices and whose concerns seem to revolve only around Kaleb and Adam throughout the course of the novel.


There is also the fact that Marr’s engaging plot isn’t matched by equally engaging prose. More often that not, the words on the page come off as dry and listless, completely out of sync with the quick-moving plot. If the readers keep on turning the pages, it certainly isn’t for the prose.


“Carnival of Souls” ends on a cliffhanger, and while there is certainly enough plot to fill another book, the question is whether the book’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses enough for readers to want to have another go. As it is, the series has a 50/50 chance.