Carnival of Souls was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I think when I read the blurb I just saw "deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite," and made assumptions. I assumed this was going to be an intense action-packed book about this deadly competition that was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I expected blood, guts, love, loss, heartbreak, crazy heart-wrenching/tear-jerking scenes.. Instead, the book kind of felt flat.
This was one of those stories where the book just felt like words on a page. I didn't get pulled into the story. I didn't feel like I was in the middle of the action. I just didn't care about the characters. And on top of that, I felt like the world building barely existed. For me, the world building is good when I have a perfectly clear picture of everything and feel like I could just slip away and exist in the fantasy world. But in Carnival of Souls there were so many unanswered questions or unexplained parts of the world. What exactly are daimons? They're shapeshifters, but that's basically the only knowledge I came away with.
Even the "deadly competition" just felt... lame. Melissa Marr could have really hyped it up to be scary, intense, and dangerous. But it didn't feel that way at all. At the very beginning of the book, two characters have to face what could have been a really intense fight, but there was no intensity. It was like two people going to work or something.
To make things worse, Carnival of Souls suffers from insta-love. When the story starts, Mallory and Kaleb had apparently already known each other for a while, but it's not clear how long. But they clearly aren't that close because Kaleb had never been to her house before. Then, he comes to her house for the first time, they have one kiss, and suddenly Kaleb is saying stuff like this:
"I don't have a cell phone, but I can get one if you want me to." He took her back into his arms. "I'm yours to command, Mallory."
--Carnival of Souls, Page 109
Yours to command? That's not even romantic. I don't want to command my boyfriend. They only kiss once and he's confessing his undying love, risking his life for her, saying "you're mine"?? Sorry, but this doesn't fly with me.
Furthermore, Mallory's whole situation was annoying. At first I thought she was an awesome strong character because she was running around with guns and training to kill daimons. But then there's all this annoying stuff that I won't go into detail about to avoid spoilers, but it basically makes her look like a weak character. And it felt like every other page she was saying:
Good daughters don't question their fathers.
There was a reason for that, but it just annoyed me. It made her look lame, pathetic, and naive. And the constant repetition of that line had me clawing my eyes out.
Let's be honest, there are a lot of people who love this book, so I don't want to say don't read it. Looking at the reviews, there's a good chance that you might like it. But this book just wasn't for me. It couldn't hold my attention, I was doing a lot of skimming, and was eager to just hurry up and move onto the next book. I haven't read any of Melissa Marr's other works, but it seems like if you enjoy her other books, you might enjoy Carnival of Souls. I'm really bummed that I didn't enjoy this book, but I guess sometimes it just happens. Maybe you'll have better luck!