Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

You know the feeling when the ingredients all went into the cookie dough properly [cold unsalted butter, right consistency] but the pastries ultimately just didn't work for you? I spent the better part of the last minute trying to come up with a good analogy--and likely failed dismally ;( In any case, what I am attempting to convey is that the book I just finished this morning had the right components, but holistically, it didn't work for me. And I also feel that there was a goldmine of good ideas[ingredients] that just needed to be expressed[baked] differently.

Here's a quick synopsis of the book---be forewarned, as I wasn't---that this is a mature book. That brings me to another point; this book, I feel, isn't quite as mature in its writing as it is in its content. The plot relies on some...innuendo and such, and there's also a bit of profanity. Yet the actual writing doesn't reflect a control of techniques that otherwise might have worked more seamlessly when wielded by other authors. 

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.
This synopsis summarizes the book quite well; and I take this as a negative indication of the book. I feel that a synopsis should scrape the surface, if at all, giving us a tiny taste of the frosting which is covering the delectable cake[metaphor working for you yet?]. Additionally, the sense that I received initially after reading the synopsis was that this novel would be magical and dark, intense and suspenseful. 
Where's the Magic without the SPELLS?
There are mentions of "spells" and "wards" but I do not recall a single instance where an actual word was spelled out for the reader. This vagueness contributed to the overall lack of connection to the City, and, also, somehow the human world too. The shape-shifting of the daimons was fascinating, but it wasn't elaborated upon at all. Questions seem to permeate the book. Which is why I have to read the sequel when it comes out ;)
Marr fantastically drew the gladiator-like competition with a breathtaking perspective into raw emotion, building upon the theme of pleasure in the novel which I wasn't so impressed with generally. Yet here, particularly in the climactic scuffle with Sol, Kaleb's character truly shines through. The universal struggle against the inexorable drive for pleasure and beauty is depicted so vividly in this scene that I truly could not stop flipping the pages at that point. 
Aya and Kaleb were the best characters by far in my opinion--they were the most adeptly cast and woven in the story. I especially fell for Aya's audacious stance in the novel-her Katniss-ness. 
It wasn't incredibly suspenseful-particularly where Mallory was concerned. I let out a sigh of disappointment whenever the story shifted to the human the "daimon-hunter" Mallory.
Ladies First...
Mallory-Clueless. Not realistic alone nor in comparison with the brief sketch given in the synopsis. An egg that wasn't cracked. Her relationship with Kaleb felt forced and unnatural--despite the justification of "pack instinct", Kaleb's instant devotion didn't fit. Furthermore, her supposed "training" hadn't given her the steel I had expected to see in her character; rather, she seemed feeble. The only steel I saw was in her ill-placed guns. 
Aya-Her courage and tenacity was boldly proclaimed from the start, when she contradicted her ruling-caste status by paying "scabs" for secret information and by soaking her knives in poison to avoid killing Belias, her former lover. While reading from Aya's perspective, there's a prompt link established through which you resonate with her movements and actions and thoughts, and thus are affected more. Whereas with the other perspectives, particularly Mallory's and Belias', there's somewhat of a lack of precise pivot and balance ensuring that each perspective is powerful and contributes to the effectiveness of the novel. If Marr had perhaps invested more in one or even two perspectives rather than several, the individual scenes that felt superficial might have carried more meaning for me. 

Amazing Work of Art Marvel Found Online: Fusion of Sweets+Books


  1. Im back too! well this book sounds meh. the way u put it. lol i doubt i would have even started it....hmm idk. make ur synopsis bigger btw for those of us who r visually impaired! :D lol oh yeah. nice metaphors xD and i noticed on the side for important dates it says clockwork princess. have u read that series? :o i considered it good?

  2. yes i love the photo at the end

  3. CoCo :) I'm going to go and enlarge the synopsis right now. Glad you <3 the metaphor. I read Book 1 "Clockwork Angel" a while ago; I liked it! I have to re-read it before starting the sequel("Clockwork Prince").

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  5. hi! cool blog. i will have to bookmark your blog for after i read the 3 books i got from the library yesterday. right now i am on a beverly clearly kick and i just read "sister of the bride".