How can I begin to describe the intriguing world set in Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls? This book is like none I have ever read before. I would categorize this book as a fantastical fiction for older teens. The best terms I can sort the elements of the book into something familiar are arena fighting, magic, transforming shifters and feudal times. All these parts do not seem to mash up nicely, but the author made it work.
Carnival of Souls takes place in the human world and a place ruled by daimons called The City. The semblance of the modern world has witches living among humans; whereas The City is filled with daimons in a strict caste system. The only way to move up in the system is to fight and win against an opponent in a deadly competition where the victory is a result of a death. Kaleb and Aya, two of the three focal characters, are two such fighters. Their reasons for winning the competition are more about what/who they want to protect rather than being the best fighter.
The third main character is Mallory, who is the daimon child of Marchosias, the ruler of The City. Mallory was taken away from her father when she was young, and she was raised by a witch. She doesn’t know that she is a daimon, but all she knows is that daimons hate witches (and vice versa), and they will try to kill each other any chance they get.
Thoughts and sentiments
My first thought when I encountered all the characters was thank goodness they are all equally likable in their own ways. No character, as of yet, is so polarizing to warrant any hate, but I have a feeling Marchosias will make his way up there.
Kaleb seems like he could be your typical sweeping-you-off-your-feet kind of guy, but then there is the whole fighting aspect he is involved in. He is part of a pack, albeit a small one; I don’t know if two beings could be classified as a pack. He wants to rise through the ranks, and the only way he can protect and support his pack is if he wins the competition. Kaleb also is an assassin for hire. This gives him more dimension than a typical shifter character.
Aya entered the competition because she had a secret to protect. She is not the best fighter by far, but she is cunning. “I’ve heard it said that poison is a woman’s weapon,” is a most fitting quote by Ned (Game of Thrones reference) to describe the person I thought Aya was. Then she surprised me. I’m glad she kept a certain person alive, because I wasn’t ready for that person to be killed off just yet.
Mallory seemed to be the most “green” of all the characters in the book. She is sheltered by her father. Although she wants to do other things, she never voices her thoughts. By the end of the book, I don’t know how she will face Marchosias. She knows next to virtually nothing about The City.
Overall, I’m not so deeply invested in any one character that I want him/her to “win.” However, I do want to know what happens next.