HarperCollins, p/b, £9.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Mallory has reached that age where she is seriously starting to think about boys, well, one boy in particular actually: Kaleb. He is attractive, confident, and he even knows she exists. The problem is that Mallory and her witch father are permanently on the run because of something he stole from daimons. Mallory has spent her whole life moving from place to place, never having any real friends and training with her father daily in case she ever has to fight off the monsters that are tracking them. It has been five years since her mother walked out on them and Mallory is beginning to get fed up of life the way it is.
Aya is of the ruling caste, which means she is destined for one thing: to breed. Except Aya does not want that life for herself. In the restrictive daimon City her only other option has been to shun the proper way she should be living and enter Marchosias’ Competition. The winner will become ruler, which for Aya would mean she could change her fate and live the way she wanted. But the competition is a series of fights to the death and only one can win.
The characters are certainly the main strength in this book. Each one is easy to empathise with and drawn with a deeper emotional depth than many encountered in young adult fiction. Each of them is restricted by their circumstance and the reader is given insight into those restrictions and the acts they are forced to perform to escape them. Each of the point of view characters is linked with the others in a complex manner that Marr reveals slowly to great effect.
Carnival of Secrets gives us more of the exciting, otherworld, young adult fantasy that was rich in Wicked Lovely. Here we have two heroines, one self-confident, assertive and powerful, the other a complete contrast. Two journeys: one a traditional coming-of-age as Mallory discovers who she really is, the other a unique exploration of the repressed female fighting against the boundaries of her society.
This is a strong opening to a series that promises action and tension throughout, as well as following a cast of characters that is varied enough that every reader will find at least one that they bond with, whether it be the innocent, the rebel or the refreshingly humble hero. Anyone who enjoys young adult fiction, the supernatural or character-based stories should read this. The only down side is that it ends rather too abruptly, the sequel a definite requirement.