Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (September 4, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007476302
- ISBN-13: 978-0007476305
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.
From Melissa Marr, bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series and Graveminder, comes a brand-new tale of lush secrets, dark love, and the struggle to forge one's own destiny.
I heard so much of Melissa Marr, but this is actually the first book I ever read from her. Yeah, I know, I have to read her bestselling WICKED LOVELY series, but for now, I have to settle in this one, and maybe put that series in my TBR list.>:D
From the blurb alone, the story seems interesting, dark and full of brutality. There are three stories for this story, that of Aya, Kaleb and Mallory. And surprisingly enough, I didn’t get lost or annoyed. From Kaleb and Aya’s story, the Carnival of Souls is where every daimon has a chance to fight to the death and whoever emerge as the victor will have his place in the ruling elite or the chance to raise his caste. Kaleb’s in the lowest caste and is hired to kill but his skills was tested when he starts to care for Mallory. Aya meanwhile is in the ruling class already but she joined the competition to avoid being married off and forced to breed.
On the other hand is Mallory’s story, she has been raised to kill daimons, survive and protect her foster/guardian/trainer/witch father while trying to be normal. But instead of being an ordinary teenage girl, go out with friends, flirt with boys, Mallory finds herself protecting herself from everyone, almost too paranoid in suspecting everyone’s interior motive just to protect her father who stole something from the daimons. When she met Aya and Kaleb, her world turn into chaos, she felt something for Kaleb but is too afraid to give it a try thinking that she’ll only put Kaleb in danger, little does she know that he’s a daimon sent to find her. Besides, their personal problems, soon they’ll find that they are in the center of a raging war between witches and daimon and the only option is to kill or to die.
I loved Marr’s writing style. She created another world of seduction and beautifully sinister story through the CARNIVAL OF SOULS. The different colored masks, their meanings, the pleasure and violence, the rich storyline all made me hooked to read it until the end. The alternate POV’s of The City and the human world wasn’t distracting, although I’m most excited when the events are in The City. The story/world building is naturally-done without going too complicated. So, it’s basically easy to understand, and I found myself easily attached to the CARNIVAL OF SOULS.
Perhaps the most tragic and the best substory I liked was that of Aya and Belias, their frustrated?/conflicted?/tortured? romance,stubborness and conflicting personalities was a cute one..:D. Aya’s character which was entirely unlikable at first became one of the most developed in the story, for behind her tough exterior lies a tender and lovable daimon. And the character I loved most is Kaleb, he’s aware that he’s done lots of bad things, but all of that has reasons and he’ll do anything to change just for Mallory. He also cares deep for the people he loves.
I think the only downside is the end part of the story. Maybe I was just too excited because finally the different subplots are somewhat connecting, and then Marr dropped it and we have the last page. Yes, she gave us the cliffhanger just like that.:D This book definitely set the standard for the next book and I’m already anxious for it.
Overall, CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a beautiful dark, sensual story, full of secrets, violence and where everything comes with a price. It’s a book from the bestselling author Melissa Marr that you shouldn’t miss.
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Almost seventeen years later
Mallory had an hour to herself after school before she had to be at practice, so she’d ducked into the only independent coffee shop in Smithfield for some overpriced, oversweetened coffee. Admittedly, she’d spent more of the hour thinking about Kaleb than doing her homework, but AP Physics wasn’t nearly as interesting as the first boy she’d felt at ease around.
She’d even told him the names of a couple of the towns where she’d lived over the years—and talked about her family. And the moment she’d done that, she’d realized she needed to stay away from him. Anyone who made her let her guard down that much was dangerous.
As she returned her empty mug to the counter, she looked out the large front window and saw Kaleb standing across the street from Java Junkies as if she’d conjured him with her thoughts. Admittedly, Smithfield was a tiny town, so she bumped into Kaleb every time he was home from school, which seemed to be a lot lately. Still, Mallory felt the same warm flush of excitement she did every time she saw him and then quashed it.
Bad idea. Very, very bad.
She lowered her gaze, suddenly finding the words painted on the door fascinating, and stepped onto the sidewalk with her eyes still downcast. She should be scanning the area for danger, but all she wanted to do was look at Kaleb. She stole a glance at him and debated going over to at least say hello.
Nothing could come of it. She knew it—but she couldn’t bring herself to tell him that. It was foolishness, but she wanted something to come of it. She’d never felt so instantly at ease or so embarrassingly attracted to anyone. Telling him to go away wasn’t something she could bring herself to do—despite how inevitable it was. Instead, she walked away, forcing herself not to look at him. She let her gaze wander over the flowers in planters along the street, the man in the rumpled suit playing his cello for change, the debris that accumulated in gutters . . .anything but the boy who had occupied all of her free thoughts the past month.
She hadn’t gone more than a few steps when Kaleb caught up with her. “Are you ignoring me?”
“No,” she lied.
His voice always made her want to shiver. Kaleb’s voice was like dark chocolate, so rich that she felt strangely sinful listening to him talk about the most mundane things. She resisted the temptation to close her eyes.
He stepped closer to her. “So you didn’t just see me and walk away?”
“Maybe,” Mallory half admitted.
If she needed to, she could put him on the ground, but Kaleb wasn’t an enemy. He was just a guy. She stole another glance at him. Just a guy? He was six feet of lean muscle, perpetually unruly hair, and eyes that were too dark to be called brown. To add to his allure, he had a ferocity to him that slipped out when he looked around the street. He’d only ever been sweet to her, but he had an attitude that hinted at an ability to wade into trouble; it gave her a foolish hope that he could handle the world she knew, even as logic warned her that she was clinging to illusions.
Until she’d met Kaleb, she’d actually worried that something was wrong with her. Her classmates had started talking about boys—or girls—a few years ago, but she was almost seventeen and, until the past month, she’d never had the sort of reactions they all talked about. The forget-yourname nervousness, the racing heart, the why-did-I-say-that—it was as foreign to her as a life without witches . . . until Kaleb.
He made her wish for things that were impossible, for a life that she could never have.
The sound of the cars on the street drew her attention, and her gaze slipped away to check the shadows for threats.
“Yes?” Her hand went to the pendant she wore under her blouse. The reasons she shouldn’t see him, the need to see him, the way she’d had to lie to him—thinking about all of that made her feel horrible inside.
“I’m glad I found you,” he said.
He moved in so he stood just a shade closer than could be considered polite, and she wondered what he’d do if she thanked him for evoking the blushworthy thoughts she was having.
She realized that he was watching her expectantly, but she wasn’t able to admit that she was happy to see him too. Instead, she said, “I didn’t expect you.”
“I just got into town,” he said.
She started, “I need to go—”
“Do you want to go somewhere?” he asked at the same time.
They both stopped. She shifted the bag on her shoulder, surreptitiously adjusting the hilt of the knife she wore hidden under her arm. Her jacket concealed it, but sometimes the top of the hilt poked the underside of her bra. That was one of the many things she didn’t want to discuss. So, why are you wearing a knife? She smiled at Kaleb, continuing the imaginary discussion in her mind. In case I need to protect us from monsters . . . not that I’ve had to fight them yet, but, you know, just in case.
“Mallory?” Kaleb stared at her in that too-intense-for- comfort way he had done since they’d first met a little over a month ago. Everything about him seemed intense though.
When he listened to her talk, he acted like what she was saying was really important, even when it was just meaningless chatter about a show she’d watched on television or an article she’d read online. The thrill of being the center of his attention made her want to linger longer, even when she knew that she couldn’t truly date him. Still, she suspected that even a small friendship with Kaleb would be better than dating any other boy.
He gestured away from the tiny downtown where the coffee shop was. “Do you want to walk or something? Even if you only have a few minutes, we could—”
“I can’t,” she interrupted and then silently added, I need to go practice killing things.
The temptation to skip practice crossed her mind, but that would lead to questions from her father, and those would lead to either admitting she’d met someone who interested her enough to skip practice or it would mean lying to her father.
Neither of those seemed like very good ideas. But as Kaleb stared at her, frowning in frustration or maybe in confusion, she wished rather desperately that she could lie to her father— or tell Kaleb everything.
Instead, she admitted, “I have practice, and I’m already going to be late. Maybe next time we could do something.
If you want to, I mean. I’m not sure if I can then either, but I want to.”
“I’ll ask again,” he promised.
And then she turned and walked away from Kaleb as quickly as she could without seeming like she was running.
She hadn’t exactly mentioned that she couldn’t date him, but that was just because there was no way to say it without sounding weird. It wasn’t because she harbored a tiny hope of something more. Really. She smiled to herself. Kaleb wants to see me again.
A short while later, Mallory had temporarily forced away thoughts of the beautiful human boy she shouldn’t date and concentrated on the task at hand: proving to her father that she was making progress with the emiautomatic.
“You need to get over it, Mals.” Adam didn’t scowl at her, but the censure was there all the same. “The revolver only has six rounds. Sometimes six won’t be enough.”
She accepted the gun, but it felt wrong in her hands. It always felt wrong. The weight of it didn’t comfort her the way the heavier revolver did.
“They aren’t like humans,” Adam reminded her— unnecessarily. He’d spent most of her life teaching her how to defend herself against daimons. She knew that they were stronger and faster than any human could hope to be. Witches stood more than a fair chance against them, but Mallory wasn’t a witch.
She sighted down on her target, inhaled, held her breath, and squeezed. “Just like taking a picture.”
She’d learned the inverse though: she’d applied firearms lessons to photography, not the other way around. Daimons weren’t scared away by a 35mm camera. A steady aim with a 9mm pistol, on the other hand, could—hopefully—save her life someday. No matter how ready she felt, fear crept over her every time she thought about facing daimons.
“Again,” Adam prompted. “You need to focus. By the time you realize what they are, you’ll need to act fast. They look like us . . . and like you.”
The pause was slight, but she heard it. Us and you. Her mother wasn’t a witch, and Adam wasn’t her bio-dad, so she wasn’t an us. She also wasn’t really able to be a them. She might be human, but Adam was a witch. That meant she was caught living among the witches, preparing to fight daimons with only a human’s defenses. Sometimes, guiltily, she admitted to herself that this wasn’t the life she wanted. A stray thought of Kaleb flitted through her mind, but she knew without asking her father that he’d never agree to her changing her training or workout schedules so she had time to date.
Steadily, she sighted, fired, and moved to the next target.
Then once she reached the end of the row, she worked her way back. Mallory hated the ease with which the semiautomatic discharged bullets. It felt like everything went too quickly, but if the paper targets in front of her were daimons, she knew she’d appreciate that extra speed.
Adam began calling numbers. “Target three, eight, two, one, eight, six.”
As he called them, she aimed and fired. It was an exercise that required reaction and focus. Admittedly, it was easier with the 9mm in her hand, but she still felt tense.
She switched guns, sliding the 9mm into an under-thearm holster and transitioning to the .357 that she wore in a thigh holster. The familiar weight of it was all she needed to summon that meditative space where the world was reduced to hand-gun-target. She had learned hand-to-hand skills, but her father insisted that most daimons had superior training and more physical strength than a human could counter. She had to be proficient with weapons too. Witches had magic; daimons had physicality; and humans had guns.
She emptied the last chamber in the revolver and glanced at her father. The furrow in his brow said what he didn’t: he wasn’t happy about her switching guns.
“I’m more comfortable with this.” She lowered the barrel so it aimed at the ground.
Adam said nothing as she opened the cylinder and discharged the empty casings. He remained quiet as she pulled six bullets from her jeans pocket and reloaded. When Mallory closed the cylinder, he said, “I should never have bought you that gun. If I’d started you with the nine mil, you wouldn’t use this as a crutch. The revolver was to be a starter, like training wheels.”
She gestured at the targets. “I’m capable with both guns. I just like this one better.”
When he didn’t reply, she walked over to the targets. Using the barrel as a pointer, she tapped the first target. “Not one outside the ‘preferred zone.’ Tight.” She went down the line, tapping each paper in the row. “I can use the nine; I just don’t like it as well.”
Adam sighed. “If you knew what they were like, Mals . . .”
He shook his head. “I hope you never have to face them alone, but if you do, you’ll be grateful for a clip, and hopefully you’ll be packing an extended clip.”
She softened at his worried look. “I know, and I will be prepared. Promise.” For a brief moment she considered asking him questions she had never verbalized, but like every other time she’d considered it, the questions skittered away before she could speak them. She wanted to know why she’d never met daimons, why she couldn’t go to his office, why they couldn’t find a way to live a different life, but her tongue wouldn’t form the words. A band seemed to tighten around her chest.
Good daughters don’t question. They obey.
Her father held her gaze, and when she didn’t speak, he nodded once. “I need you to be prepared.”
Mallory straightened her shoulders and met her father’s gaze. “I won’t let you down.”
He ejected the clip from the 9mm and replaced it with an extended clip. “Notice that it took a moment to reload this.
Sometimes a single moment makes a difference. Daimons aren’t like witches or humans, Mallory. You can’t forget that.”
“I won’t,” she promised. The pressure around her chest faded.
He held the 9mm pistol out to her.
Lips pursed, she accepted it. Daimons might be more capable at hand-to-hand, but she wasn’t planning on allowing any of them close enough for that to matter.
“Empty it,” he ordered.
Mallory aimed and emptied half the clip. After fifteen bullets tore through the existing holes in the target, daylight shone through the center of the paper as if it were an open window. She did the same thing to a second target, and then lowered the gun. Maybe if she was good enough, her father would let her take a little time to go out, to at least build a friendship with Kaleb instead of settling for a few moments when they crossed paths. She glanced at Adam.
He nodded. “Again.”
Several hours and several clips later, Adam and Mallory returned to the three-bedroom house they rented in Smithfield, yet another of the interchangeable towns in the middle of the country. Like almost every other house the past few years, this one was nondescript. It was nice, clean, and in good order, but it was anonymous in a way she sometimes hated. The walls were white, and the carpets were beige. There were no houseplants or bric-a-brac that said “this is a home.” Takeout menus were held to the front of the fridge by strips of tape, clips, and magnets. It added to the already generic feel of the house.
It had been five years since they’d had a real home.
Since Mom left.
That was the real difference: Selah had turned whatever rental they’d had into an actual home. She’d bought paint and rollers, and she’d spent days turning a plain house into a real home. Boring white walls became a different color in each house. “Make it an adventure,” she’d said. One house had ceilings painted like a sky, blue with big, fluffy clouds. Another had a tree painted on Mallory’s bedroom wall. Selah had added hooks for her robe and her coat at the ends of two big branches.
Beige carpet was covered with rugs, the splashes of color Selah pulled from battered boxes to make boring space into flowerstrewn fields or calm ponds. Claiming a house was a game, one they’d played over and over in new towns. Now that it was just Mallory and Adam, the walls of every house were white, and the only color on the carpet was from the stains left by the last residents.
Mallory walked into the dining room and sat down.
Mutely, she put both guns on the weathered wooden table, and then she proceeded to wipe down first her .357 and then the 9mm. She’d been handling guns since she was seven, and the process—much like the routine of aiming and discharging her weapons—was reassuring. It was a cue that things were normal, that her life was unchanged even as the houses she slept in year after year changed.
“We have to move again,” Adam said from the doorway to the dining room.
She paused. “When?”
“Now.” His mouth was a grim line.
“Now,” she repeated. “Like tonight, now?”
“No.” He gave her a smile that did little to soften the tension in his expression before saying gently, “I called the company movers. They’ll be here on the fifteenth.”
Childish hurt warred with years of practicality. Adam wouldn’t decide that they needed to go again, especially on such short notice, if he didn’t think it was essential, but she felt betrayed. They’d spent hours together, and he hadn’t mentioned it until now.
“That’s my birthday,” she said with as little inflection as she could manage. She didn’t—couldn’t—mention Kaleb, but the thought of never seeing him again tore at her. Her gaze was carefully fixed on the gun she wiped clean.
“I know.” Adam walked into the room and hugged her.
She closed her eyes like the child she couldn’t be. It was silly to make a big deal over a date on the calendar, but she still clung to the foolish dream that her mother would show up on her birthday. There was no reason to believe she would, but Mallory had held on to the hope that her mother would walk back through the door and into their lives some birthday with as little notice as her departure on Mallory’s twelfth birthday.
Adam swore that Selah had ways to locate them. His employer always knew where they were, and Selah was the only person in the world who had been granted full clearance to be told how to find Adam and Mallory at any time. Mallory hated to doubt her father’s judgment, but her mother had never been accepted by his colleagues. It wouldn’t surprise anyone but Adam if they “forgot” or misled Selah.
“I’m going to be working at the Stoneleigh-Ross main office.” Adam’s expression was perfectly unreadable—which meant he was either hiding something or afraid.
Mallory squared her shoulders and stared at him as he walked away. She never succeeded at questioning her father, but the thought of Kaleb made her feel strong. She knew she couldn’t really date him, and she shouldn’t get too close to a regular human. For his safety, she needed to keep a distance, but the possibility of continuing even the small conversations they now shared was a great temptation.
“I want to know why we have to go,” she told her father.
Her usually absent temper flared, and her voice rose. “I’m not a child anymore. I deserve to know.”
Her father sat down on the sofa and waited as she reloaded the clips. After a couple of minutes, he said, “I love you more than I thought it possible to love anyone or anything. If I could put you away somewhere safe and take care of the threats on my own, I would.”
“I don’t want to be ‘put away.’” Mallory laid the clip on the table. The soft clatter was in direct contrast to the turmoil she was trying to repress. She crossed the small distance to the living room, but didn’t sit. “I want to know what’s going on. I want to know why we have to move so suddenly. Again. I want to know why they’re after you in the first place.”
Her father gave her a curious look, and she wanted to apologize for raising her voice to him. She wasn’t sorry though.
He acted like she was too fragile to know anything, but he taught her how to kill. Maybe she needed to show him that she wasn’t going to back down every time he skewered her with his gaze.
After a moment, Adam said, “A long time ago I took something very valuable.” He leaned forward so that his hands were on either side of his knees, as if he had to hold on to the sofa cushion. “Maybe it was foolish. I knew it was dangerous, but I was angry. They killed my parents and my brother . . .” He paused, and she thought he’d stop as he always had on the rare occasions when he had mentioned The City, but this time, he continued. “If not for my sister, I’d be dead too. Evelyn saved me. I was so young, too young to fight, but after the wars, I waited. It took a couple of centuries, but then I saw my chance: I took what their ruler most valued, but I couldn’t . . . I can’t destroy it. Evelyn wants to use it as a weapon, but . . .” Adam bowed his head as his words dwindled.
This time, he didn’t resume. He sat there with his head down.
Mallory shuddered at the thought of Evelyn Stoneleigh.
She was supposed to be family, but family or not, the woman who ran the Witches’ Council was the single most frightening person Mallory had ever met. She looked innocuous, like most witches, but she had stared at Mallory with flat, dark eyes reminiscent of sharks’ eyes: all function, no emotion.
Mallory thought about the few possessions her father carried rather than allow the movers to pack and ship, and she could think of nothing valuable enough to kill for. “Could you give it back so we can stop running?”
Adam lifted his head. “I’d sooner die—and he’d kill me either way. They don’t think like witches, Mals, and he’s their ruler. It would be a sign of weakness to let me live.”
“There has to be another option,” she insisted. “Our choices are run or die? That’s it? Maybe you can have someone else return it to them. Evelyn is strong and—”
“No!” he snapped. After a shuddering breath, he said evenly, “I’ll come up with a plan. We’ll be okay. You’ll be careful, and we’ll move as often as we have to. If I die, you go to Evelyn.”
He held his hand out to her, and she went to his side.
Mallory blinked away tears as her father held her. This was her future for as long as she could imagine, running and hoping the monsters didn’t find them.
I hate daimons.