Carnival of Secrets
by Marr, Melissa

"A centuries-long war between daimons and witches sets the stage for three teens caught up in a deadly struggle for power and autonomy in the exotic and otherworldly Carnival of Souls, the mercantile center of the daimon dimension"-Provided by publisher.

Marr's latest title combines gladiator-like games, a strict caste system, and magical feuds between witches and daimons. Seventeen-year-old Mallory has been raised in our human world by her adoptive father, the powerful witch Adam-her mother abandoned the family long ago. Adam and Mallory are constantly on the run, staying one step ahead of the daimons she's been trained to fight. Then stunningly attractive daimon Kaleb shows up and whisks Mallory away to another world, where young men and women fight to the death for the right to help rule the City. Here Mallory learns hard truths about her true parentage, and Marr sets the stage for at least one more title. There's a lot of stage to set, and historical explanation is balanced with action-filled battle and magic scenes. Binding circles, handfasting, and teen prostitutes of both genders are plentiful. The fast pace, feisty female warriors, and themes of social justice bear more than a small resemblance to Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games, but Marr's many fans from the Wicked Lovely series won't be disappointed. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Marr established her supernatural bona fides with the best-selling Wicked Lovely series (which is currently being major motion pictured). Look for this new series to pull in even more fans. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Festive title notwithstanding, traversing the complicated, shallowly rendered world of this exposition-heavy fantasy is a dreary slog, like reading a gaming manual cover to cover. Years after the Witch Wars exiled witches to the human world, daimons remain in possession of The City. (Daimon attributes include retractable talons, fangs and, under stress, berserker temperament.) Encroaching on the overcrowded, brutal City is a beast-ridden wilderness, a parting gift of the witches, power-hungry, magically gifted humanoids. For City residents outside the ruling caste, career options are limited: assassin, thief, con artist, prostitute or, once a generation, combatant in deadly gladiatorial games. For entertainment, there's the eponymous Carnival and the Night Market (see career options). As heirs of daimon rulers rarely survive childhood, Mallory, daughter of City ruler Marchosias, has been hidden in the human world, raised by her adoptive witch dad. Kaleb, the daimon sent to kill her, is smitten instead. Drably generic Mallory is ignorant of her heritage, but it's revealed early to readers, leaching the story of suspense. Characters frequently pause the action to muse on what they and readers already know. Vaguely orgiastic, sadomasochistic sex and violence stand in for genuine emotion. Only the violence, delineated in bloody detail, is graphic. Marr fans will be happy to learn this is a series opener. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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