Carnival of Secrets (Untamed City, book one)
By Melissa Marr, read by James Marsters
Published 2012 by HarperCollins
Mallory knows little about The City, but the inhabitants of The City know all about her. Soon, she'll find out more than she ever wanted to know, as her path crosses dangerously with Aya and Kaleb, two desperate souls searching for better lives. Originally published as Carnival of Souls.
I will fully admit: the main reason I listened to this audiobook is because it was narrated by James Marsters (Spike from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer). I adore him and think his voice is lovely, so when I found out he was doing audiobook narration, I was eager to listen. I have read the majority of the Wicked Lovely series and enjoyed it, so I also had interest in reading something new from Melissa Marr.
What I liked most about this book is that it feels gritty and dark. I liked Wicked Lovely because it explored the darker side of fae and, in general, I'm a fan of dark fantasy and horror. There is quite a bit of violence in this novel and it all feels ever darker than the faeries in her previous books. I also enjoyed the multiple points of view. It was interesting to have a variety of perspectives in this world. I did find myself a bit frustrated by the lack of development of Mallory - it was my understanding from the blurb that she was really the main focus of the book, yet in actuality, we don't spend that much time with her. So, I wish either the blurb was different, or she had been focused on more fully. That being said, I think Aya was my favorite character - she felt more fully realized than Mallory and I found her story slightly more interesting than the others.
Where I found this book lacking was the romance and the lack of worldbuilding. The romance never felt genuine to me, and came out of nowhere, in a way that I found very unappealing. Maybe if we had spent more time with Mallory it would make more sense, but I don't think it rings true to Kaleb's character. In terms of worldbuilding, Marr has the beginnings of a truly fascinating world in play here but there is a distinct lack of information. There is little to no explanation of what the daimons and witches are, or why they don't get along. I don't want a big infodump explaining all that to me, but I would like something that gives me some insight.
I thought Marsters was a great choice for the audiobook. As I said, I think his voice is lovely to listen to, and he captured the darkness of the story quite well. I'm not sure how successful he really was at distinguishing the character voices, but I still enjoyed listening.
Final note: there seems to be some controversy surrounding this title, which is allegedly the first in the series. First, there was the business about the title (I think there was a lawsuit), which I don't care so much about. But there also seems to be something complex going on between the author and publisher as there is no information on when a second book might be forthcoming. I did find an indication of an e-novella being released this fall, but nothing beyond that, leaving me wondering if this series will continue anytime soon.