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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: September 4, 2012
Pages: 306
Source: Traded with Stories & Sweeties
Rating: 2.5 Stars

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.

In short: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr has a ton of potential, but is unfortunately bogged down with an exposition-heavy story that lacks in action and character development.
Creating dark and gritty fantasy worlds is something that Melissa Marr excels at. Her books tend to have these really sinister atmospheres that make for edgy and dangerous stories. And Carnival of Souls is no exception. Enter the world of the carnival in which cage fighting matches and masked seduction occur in equal parts. Transitioning between two different worlds - the normal human world and the parallel daimon realm - and four different characters perspectives, Carnival of Souls has a lot going on and a lot of potential.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel like the concept and premise of Carnival of Souls was used to its full potential. What should've been a dangerous and exciting read was more often slow and boring. I blame the crux of this problem on the poor world building. Melissa Marr has created a wonderfully complex world, but it is the execution of the set-up of this world that was lacking: a good majority of Carnival of Souls is exposition. The particulars of the daimon realm and the caste system are described at length and it really bogs down the story as there is very little actual action going on. The exposition-heavy story really hurts the pacing and reads more like a textbook at times as it is not integrated very well into the text.

And I can't say I particularly cared for any of the characters either. We never truly get to know any of them that well and that makes it difficult to relate to them. The romances were similarly underdeveloped and one of them was another ubiquitous case of insta-love. I spent Carnival of Souls feeling removed from the story and the superficial characters, not really caring what happens and eager to set it aside so that I could start something more engaging. And I hated the ending.

I can't help but think that most of the problems I had with Carnival of Souls could be fixed if only it was longer in page length. Very talented authors can get a lot done in very few pages, but I think even the most talented author would have had a hard time setting up such a complex world and still having time for character development and action scenes in just 300 pages. But as it is, Carnival of Souls was 300 pages of exposition - the execution of which was fairly poor and boring - and that's a shame because it really could've been a truly exciting story.

Other Reviews:
Books and Sensibility
Good Books and Good Wine
Novel Sounds

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  1. This one is in my DNF pile, which is surprising since I devoured the other Melissa Marr books! Just couldn't get through, I gave up very early into the book by the time Kaleb figured out what Mallory was to him. Sigh, had high expectations for this.

  2. I bought this one at the signing strictly to have a book with that pretty of a cover signed. It's funny because when I got home from the signing I looked at it and thought "well, I'm never going to read it but it's cool!" LOL

    Thank you for justifying that thought, Aylee! I agree that I love the IDEA of the book but I hate to see that it was executed so poorly. In a book as fantastical as this I either have to be fully engrossed in the plot or love the characters, doesn't seem like I will get either here. Great review!

  3. I kinda thought from the synopsis that this one sounded kind of exposition-heavy. It seems like one of those cases where the author has a really great fantasy world idea, but it's all too complicated to explain while still concentrating on important things like plot and characters. I do love that cover, but I probably won't be trying this one. Great honest review!

  4. Most of the reviews for this book have been less than enthusiastic, so as much as I wanted to read it when I first heard about it, I think I'm going pass. Complex worlds are great when you have plenty of time to explore them, but it sounds like that doesn't really happen in this case. Disappointing to say the least! Thanks for your thoughts Aylee:)

  5. I started this one a long time ago, but I keep getting distracted with more new books that are coming out...I do have an audio version too, so I think I'll end up listening to this one eventually. How bad can anything be when read by James Marsters, right? Hopefully? But yeah, this one hasn't gotten the best reviews, which is sad because I too love this author.

  6. Great review Aylee. I was thinking of buying this one, but now I think I'll pass and just try to get reading Wicked Lovely instead!

  7. Too bad this one fell short for you! I enjoyed Marr's Graveminder book. I loved the creepy world and characters.

  8. Awesome review! I was ABOUT to buy this, but I bought Wicked Lovely instead. Is that one better?!

  9. I almost brought a copy but now I think I'll skip this one. Thanks for your honesty!

  10. Too bad this didn't work for you. I have it but haven't read it yet. I've read quite a few mixed reviews for it.

  11. Now that's a shame. I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for you, I've read more reviews with the same complaints. Great idea, but poor execution. Now I'm sure that I'm not going to buy a copy. I might check it out if there is a copy in the library. Thanks for the honest, good review :)

  12. It's to bad you didn't like this book. For some reason it hasn't called my name and I haven't been eager to read it. I think I'll skip out on this one.

  13. There was so much hype surrounding the release of this book but then I didn't hear much once it came out.

    A lot of first books need to spend so much time setting everything up that they can be boring to read and you end up not bothering to continue. Especially if there isn't a character that grabs your attention.

  14. Hmm. I bought this one at the book signing and love the cover ... but we'll see how I feel about the content. It does look very short! Though I hate it when I read a book where I really don't care about the characters.

  15. Great pick! I really liked her Wicked Lovely series, so I definitely have this on my TBR. Very cool Cover :-)

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