Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Carnival of Secrets by Melissa Marr

Title: Carnival of Secrets
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: Urban fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 336 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 31, 2012
Series: Untamed City #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
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, 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.

Main characters: 3/5

Aya was intriguing and fascinating. Her secret was interesting (though perhaps thinly veiled), but more importantly she was an incredibly strong character. I loved how she attempted to break out of the gender norms and the status quo and that she was willing to give up everything for what she believed in. Even when I didn't agree with what she did or how she went about it, I was enthralled with her.

On the other hand, I really, really hated Mallory. She was one of the most frustrating characters that I've ever encountered because she was inept and incompetent. She was coddled and had secrets kept from her, but that didn't excuse her whining and poor attitude, and the way that she needed to be saved by everyone. I found no redeeming qualities in her.

I wavered back and forth with how I felt about Kaleb. On one hand, I loved his loyalty, his relationship with Zevi, and his commitment to bettering his life. But on the other hand? Kaleb's entire relationship with Mallory was pretty awful. The way he treated her, the foundation of their relationship and its progression (no spoilers)... just everything. Further, we didn't get a good sense of Kaleb and Mallory's introduction or how their relationship began. I was wondering what the attraction was and how they fell in love so quickly.

Secondary characters: 4/5

Zevi was such a unique character. I have never encountered anything like him, and I appreciated that novelty. He was quirky, loyal, and sweet. His interactions with Kaleb and Aya were the perfect counterbalance to their harshness and intensity.

Belius was similarly a breath of fresh air. I was frustrated with him and his adherence to the status quo, but even still I really liked him. He was single-minded in his love for Aya and gave the reader an idea of the caste system and those who followed it. His dedication to Aya, even when her actions negatively affected him, was the true demonstration of love.

I wasn't a fan of Adam. I appreciated his love for Mallory, but I was incredibly frustrated and upset with him and I didn't understand why Mallory didn't feel the same way.

Writing style: 2.5/5

Marr's writing style was not my favorite. While she had some nice descriptions and the pacing generally moved along at a good clip, I was frustrated with the dialogue. The way that her character's spoke was sometimes unrealistic and jolted me out of the story. Ultimately, that was something that was very difficult to get over and tainted the rest of the novel.

I was pretty neutral about the alternating POVs. I liked seeing the characters from one world into the next, but sometimes it jolted me around and could be confusing to keep track of what was going on.

Plot: 2.5/5 

I wasn't immediately drawn to the premise of Carnival of Secrets. It's not something that I would normally be interested in reading and the idea of daimons and witches wasn't really down my alley. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

The world that Marr created was something unique and intriguing: the idea of the rigid class lines and the carnival were both fascinating to me. Daimons themselves were not new, but I liked the way that Marr shaped the mythology of the creature to fit her story and put a new spin on an old tale. The way that Marr combined the two worlds with her plot was extremely well done. I wish that Marr had given me some more background on.... well... everything: on the actual nature of daimons (what are they exactly?), more details about the City, more information about the Curs vs. the rest of the daimons, etc.

I was disappointed that we didn't see more actual conflict in this first book of the new series. At some points, it felt like a giant prequel for future novels, with the exception of the fact that we learn some secrets and see the progression of some relationships. The secrets and the wheeling and dealings were interesting, but more action would have been appreciated.

Ending: 1/5

Is it bad that I can't even remember what happens? I guess that means it's pretty lackluster. Basically, nothing happens in the book so nothing happens at the end either. We learn a lot about everything, find out all their secrets and.... it ends. A prequel to the series, essentially.

Best scene: Aya and Belius' fight scene

Reminded Me Of: The Hunger Games meets 

Positives: Aya, Belius, Zevi, secrets & deals, novelty and innovation with an unoriginal theme (daimon/daemons), worldbuilding (for the most part)

Negatives: Mallory, Kaleb, the instalove/treatment of women, lack of character development, ending, the "prequel" feel & lack of action, writing style

Cover: It's pretty but I don't really see the connection to the story.

Verdict: Some major pitfalls stopped this read from being much more than a way to pass the time

Rating:  4.8 / 10 (3 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

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