Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
I enjoyed Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series about fairies, so I was interested to learn about her new novel about witches and daimons and their violent rivalry spanning two worlds. As in the fairy novels, the imagined world is richly detailed, dark, and violent, full of power struggles between different factions. There are some good surprises and revelations in the plot as well. Marr’s sentences put her solidly among the better YA writers popular today. She goes for psychological complexity as well as fantastic spectacle.
The second and third chapters and the character of Aya were the things that really hooked me in to this novel. Aya is so ambitious that she’s fighting in a dangerous tournament for the right to rule the daimon world, even though it means facing her fiance. She and Belias do seem to love each other, but she refuses to ever have children. For some reason, I feel like a young character expressing not only a lack of desire but a downright antipathy toward motherhood is really subversive in a YA book. Children are so central to the typical happily-ever-after script that denying them from the outset seems to undermine the entire structure and the assumptions underlying it.
The other major plot thread is the love story between Kaleb, a low-caste daimon who’s also competing in the tournament, and Mallory, who grew up in the human world, believing a witch was her father. The two stories are intertwined well, and both relationships are a bit troubled and twisted, involving big lies and manipulation.
The ending implies a sequel, so I’ll be looking out for the next book. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how these messed-up couples develop.