- Release Date: September 4th 2012
- Pages: 306 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins
- Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis: 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
So, remember those articles where moral guardians condemned some YA novels for being too dark ? Well, this probably would have been one of the books they targeted.
Carnival of Secrets is a gritty,violent, and vaguely sex obsessed fantasy novel from best-selling author Melissa Marr
In The City, daimons live in a strict Caste system ruled by their leader, Marchosias. At the center of The City is the Carnival of Souls, a marketplace where one goes to trade money for favors from the black masked assassins or red masked prostitutes among other things.
The only way out of the Caste you were born into is to enter Marchosias Competition and compete in a series of fights to the death to earn a spot in the ruling class.
Kaleb is a cur, a member of the lowest caste and winning the competition is his only way at a life of more than assassin or prostitute. He believes his path to victory is clear until he crosses paths with Aya, the first ruling class girl to enter The Competition and Mallory, Marchosia’s only child who lives hidden in the human world unaware of her lineage.
The concept of this book is excellent and has a relatively universal theme; what would you give to have a chance to change your life ? But, this death match competition that is so heavily marketed on the back of the book and in the trailer is really in the background. The actual plot of this book is about how Kaleb wants to protect Mallory from being killed by Marchosias brother, Haage and how Aya doesn’t want to have kids.
Marr does some excellent world and society building, but there just isn’t much being done within the world. The novel hasn’t figured out it’s direction. Mallory comes off at first as a kick ass heroine who has been trained to kill daimons with a 9mm and can hold her own, but for the most part she just waits around a lot and we don’t get to see her in action. Kaleb starts as a sort of ruthless anti-hero, but he kind of takes a 180 in the last half.
This book focuses a lot on reproduction and sex; so much of the plot concerning female characters is about breeding. The book concedes this point by saying that daimon couples have a hard time having surviving offspring, but this whole breeding issues drives a majority of the plot of the book and at some point it just kind of squicked me out, because it was so focused on women’s ovaries like currency.
There is a lot done to characters in this book without their consent. In fact, there is a rape scene in this book and I just could not figure out why it was in there. It kind of makes me as the reader uncomfortable and maybe that’s the point ? Kaleb’s actions towards the end for me were just like “Really ?” “Really, you’re doing this?”. He does a lot of things without Mallory’s consent and he is almost proud of it.
I would a suggest this book on it’s uniqueness, it is very different from most YA’s I’ve read this year. And if you can handle some insta-love and grittiness you may really enjoy this one.
* Review courtesy of ARC
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.