REVIEW by Jena: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr (@Melissa_Marr)

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.

I don’t normally shop the bestsellers list (BSL) for the simple fact that, usually after reading a book on the BSL, I can never figure out WHY they’re on the BSL.  I have been disappointed more times than not. 

My initial reaction when I saw the cover of Carnival of Souls was “oh god…..another 50 shades ripoff…..”.  I have seen sooo many of these as of late that I never even gave it a second thought.  Never read the synopsis and I wasn’t at all familiar with the author.  I dutifully marked it on my list of book I will probably never read and moved on with my life. 

Enter James Marsters… 

It’s no secret amongst my friends that I am a huge Spuffy fan.  You know?  Spuffy?  Spike & Buffy?  The unexpected love that topped all great loves (for a while, anyway)???  Yes, I am team Spuffy.  Aside from being the Sp half of Spuffy, James Marsters also happens to be one of the best performers ever.  Between acting, music (Wooo!  Yeah!  Ghost of the Robot! I heart ‘Valerie’!) and vocal acting for audiobooks, this guy is just incredible at his craft. 

Well, I caught wind that he was doing the reading for the audiobook version of Carnival of Souls and the fangirl part of me instantly took a stand.  He would NEVER read for a crappily written piece of smut!  Not James!  (I like to pretend we are on a first name basis)  So I did a little digging.  And whaddaya know.  Not crappily written smut.  Classified as a YA novel actually. 

The synopsis grabbed me.  Two simple paragraphs that were packed with lots of intrigue. 

I started listening to the audiobook and right from the prologue, I was sucked in.  The story bounces back and forth and is told from the point of view of many different characters.  At first, I found this to be a little confusing only because it is a little harder to follow those perception shifts when listening to an audiobook.  However, like all the great audiobook narrators of our time, James Masters has mastered the art of giving each character their own voice and distinct sound.  Not merely just reading.  Acting.  I quickly learned which voice belonged to which character and the shifts didn’t feel awkward at all.  I am guessing that when you have the book in front of you, these shifts probably aren’t a problem. 

The plot of this book is good.  Really good.  Intensely complex for a YA novel but not confusing.  I loved all of the characters except one.  Mallory.  The chick who I thought was the main character at the beginning of the book but as the point of view switches, you quickly realize that she’s only one of MANY main characters in this book.  Her character is just flat.  There isn’t a whole lot of depth there.  She’s painfully naïve but on that same line of thought, she’s grown up living in a closely guarded bubble without being told why and therefore her naiveté is excusable.  As I said, she’s not the only focus of the book so her “flatness” can be overlooked pretty easily.

The other characters in this story more than make up for her lacking.  Kaleb is profoundly awesome.  He’s a flawed badass and we all love those.  I started out instantly wanting to hate him, painting him as the bad guy mentally but before long, he grew on me.  He’s got depth and reason behind every decision and in some way, shape or form, I was able to respect him decisions. 

Marchosias is a big character in spirit in this book and when you finally get to really meet him, he turns out to be as much of a dick as you imagined. 

Aya is a character just chock full o’ mystery.  She was probably the most intriguing character in this book and even by the end, I still didn’t quite have her all the way figured out.

Oh, and the ending?  Yeah, be prepared to slip into some Literary Limbo kiddies because this book leaves you off with a big fat whopping cliffhanger.  And it’s going to hurt.  There is so much build up and tension in this book and just when you reach the end and there’s this gigantic pivotal moment, it ends.  I do have to say, the spot it leaves off is a perfect teaser moment.  I will definitely be picking up the next book to see how it turns out. 

The things I didn’t like are few.  As I already stated, I wasn’t sold on Mallory.  However, I believe that there is great potential for her in the next book.  The pivotal moment that Carnival of Souls leaves off at totally changes things for her. 

I also have a problem with this book being labeled as Young Adult but that may just be my perception of what I consider a “young adult”.  I, like most people, see YA as something your 11 or 12 year old could read and…..not so much.  Aside from being a higher reading level, there’s some content in the book I know some parents would not be alright with.  A common theme of the book is breeding.  Like, literally the act of breeding.  And if you’re not one for violence, there’s a particularly nasty fight scene in this book that may not be ok in some parents’ eyes.  Like I said, it just depends on what you consider ok for “YA”. 

All in all, Carnival of Souls was a fantastic book and I am happy I took the chance on it.  It’s well written and tells a captivating story.  The plot is fast paced and I never hit a single point where I felt that it dragged. 

I am going to give Carnival of Souls a solid 4 stars.  It’s not going to change my world but I am glad I read it. 


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  1. I have to say, I do like Melissa Marr. Her book, The Ink Exchange is one of my favs 🙂

    1. I really enjoyed this book but the author’s website is severely lacking and I cant find a damn thing about the next book, if it’s a series, what the name of the series is….nothing.

      1. Oh yeah, I see what you mean. I hadn’t checked her website in ages. It’s kinda haphazard :/

  2. I’ve been dying to get my hands on this one! I’m happy the audiobook was great. I adore audiobooks as well as kindles and paperbacks! 🙂 Wonderful review post!

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