I would like to apologize for the quiet on the blog. I have been reading – mostly a re-read of Sherlock Holmes from front to back, which is my comfort read. I’ve been struggling with my own writing and output and anxiety and blah blah blah, I even missed my Pride and Prejudice challenge on 7/1 – I will be back with a new Pride and Prejudice continuation review on, or shortly after, 8/1. Now let’s talk about what we’re here to talk about – which is this incredible anthology right hee-yah.
I got this as an ARC – and I wish, oh I wish I could quote it, but you can’t quote an ARC….I wish I could, because there is some delicious stuff in here. This Anthology of Urban Fantasy stories set in and around carnivals grew in the deep, dark recesses of the Twitter… A couple of authors, allowed out without their handlers, had a conversation. Threats were made. Demons were summoned. I don’t know exactly what happened. All I know was that in order to keep the evil ones at bay, 14 authors banded together to write spells in the form of stories, some of them possibly true stories set in the guise of fiction… I don’t know. I could be endangering my life telling you this. Here. Let this blurb tell you what I am loathe to reveal. And here is the link to Goodreads.
A star-studded urban fantasy anthology featuring bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, and Kevin Hearne, whose stories explore the creepy, mysterious, and, yes, sometimes magical world of traveling carnivals.
The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictions—the bright lights mask the peeling paint; a carnie in greasy overalls slinks away from the direction of the Barker’s seductive call. It is a place of illusion—is that woman’s beard real? How can she live locked in that watery box?
And while many are tricked by sleight of hand, there are hints of something truly magical going on. One must remain alert and learn quickly the unwritten rules of this dark show. To beat the carnival, one had better have either a whole lot of luck or a whole lot of guns—or maybe some magic of one’s own.
Featuring stories grotesque and comical, outrageous and action-packed, Carniepunk is the first anthology to channel the energy and attitude of urban fantasy into the bizarre world of creaking machinery, twisted myths, and vivid new magic.
I don’t always like anthologies with a running theme. After a while it can feel like you are reading what amounts to stories stamped out by cookie cutters. This anthology managed to avoid that. Some are original stand-alones, some are set in already established worlds. I was excited to read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid story – but my two other favorites, Hillary Jacques and Seanan McGuire, wrote originals set in new worlds I’d like to read more of.
I also discovered a few new authors I intend to track down and read. The most haunting and original and “make you go oooooh” story for me was The Cold Girl by Rachel Caine. The humans we start the story with are scary enough. Teenagers!! Sixteen year old Kiley’s boyfriend is a jerk. Then we find out he is so much worse than a jerk! He’s murderous, and in the middle of the carnival, he realizes she’s learned his ugly secret. Kiley is all set to become his next victim, but then there is the Cold Girl – one of the mysterious stars of the midway. I was unsure what sort of entity this creature is – is she a ghost? A vampire? Whatever she is, she has the power to let Kiley seek vengeance despite her semi-murdered state. However -this sort of thing always comes with a price. Is she willing to pay it? Is vengeance worth an eternity of pain and cold?
Parlor Tricks by Jennifer Estep is an Elemental Assassin story. I have not read the novels – but I may have to! The main characters are sisters who go to the carnival to look for a missing girl, and end up going missing themselves! The magic is element based and it turns out the purveyors of the carnival are perverting magic for their own gain. It was a kick-ass story with some strong female characters and good writing.
I really enjoyed this anthology all the way through. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy or paranormal type stuff – or anyone who has caught a glimpse behind the plywood facade of the carnival and knows it’s not all brightly spun sugar and deep fried delectables… who has caught the jaundiced eye of the creature in the freak show that looks a little too real…or for anyone who wants to.