Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Carnival of Souls
I'm a little stunned. I can't quite make heads or tails of this book. It's a nice disorientation really.
I've read a couple books from The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr and I'm always amazed at how intricate and straightforward her characters interact with each other. She seems to have an uncanny ability to capture the attitude's of a character and maintain that for the course of the book no matter how weird the fey may be. It's stunning really. In this case it's witches/daimons/humans but the point still stands.
So, to get my bearings a bit, a brief synopsis.
There's the human realm and The City (which is the Daimon realm). Witches and humans tend to live in the human realm and Daimons with very few witches live in The City. The whole Carnival of Souls is a place in The City where you can buy anything for the right price. There also happens to be a competition to get a seat in The City's government; the competition is won by fighting, and the fights in the competition are won by an opponent's death or forfeit.
The story launches with Mallory's mother Selah (who is a watcher Daimon) seeks the aid of Adam (a crazy powerful witch in the human realm) to protect her daughter Mallory (who is also the daughter of Marchosias - the badass who runs The City). They make a pact/vow thingy that's binding as long as both of them hold up their end of the deal. Mallory was a baby at this point. We're then launched 17 years later (because growing up is boring right?) where we find that Mallory has been trained to defend herself against Daimons since she was 7, her mother inexplicably left her on her eleventh birthday (Mallory misses her greatly), and her 'Dad', Adam, is overprotective like WHOA.
A little overwhelming.
Let's ignore Mallory for a bit because she doesn't know who her biological father is, what she is, she's all angsty and full of rebellion but is spelled by Adam to be a good daughter for her protection. WHATEVER.
Enter Aya, a lethal/intelligent/high caste Daimon who's entered the death tournament competition thingy to win a seat in government so she hopefully doesn't have to breed. Oh yeah, in The City, Daimons are expected to breed at age 18 and Aya REALLY doesn't want to. Also, Aya rocks at fighting.
Enter Belias, a gentlemanly high caste Daimon who was Aya's betrothed for a while until she went all NO at him since she doesn't want children and he has an obligation to his family and The City to make an heir with his wife. It really seems like a population control deal. So Aya goes NO at him about their betrothal, effectively breaking it off, and enters the tournament. Belias goes WTF since she's obligated to make children too and enters the tournament too. Then he bribes people so they fight each other. Angst for everyone!
Then there's Kaleb and Zeri. Kaleb is a cur Daimon which is basically the equivalent of a sentient stray dog. So is Zeri. They're a pack which is basically family but without being blood related. They still function as family and love each other, etc but it isn't weird. Kaleb has been hired by Haage (Machoasis brother) to spy on Mallory in the human world and kill her if the time comes. In the meantime, Kaleb has also entered the death tournament competition thingy to rise to a higher caste so he didn't have to do crap jobs to support himself and Zeri. Whew.
All of these characters get very mixed up and entwined with each other in very intricate ways. The book is written in such an artfully complex manner that even after I've finished it, I'm still very stunned by it. I drew myself a diagram of all the complicated ways everyone seems to be tied together and speculated motivations. It's a pretty giant spider web that expanded out over three pieces of paper.
Still, the puzzle and mystery of each character and the intricate rules, social obligations, etc that are set up absolutely fascinate me. I really just wish the next book in the series would come out already! I also would have liked to see more humor in the book and much less of angsty/confused Mallory. But we'll see what happens in the next book.