As I have stated time and time again, I am a HUGE fan of the fantasy genre, so when I was asked to read Carniepunk, I welcomed it with open arms. It seemed like a pretty awesome anthology that numerous authors in the genre had put together.
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.
The fact that this is an anthology will either be a big turn on or a big turn off for readers. I found it to be a great opportunity to get a good mix of not only the genre, but to be exposed to many different authors. Some of the authors I’m sure you have read/heard of, while others are completely new. I felt like many of the stories were geared towards attracting readers to check out the author’s existing books, as most of them are tied in to their signature series. The positive thing about this is that if you like a story, you can go pick up their other works. However, the negative thing is that some of the short stories depended too much on the reader being familiar with the series it drew upon and failed to stand on its own. While this can be a downside to readers who have never been exposed to that author’s work before, the flip side is the opportunity to appeal in acquiring new readers. While I definitely enjoyed the book I don’t believe it’s for everyone. The problem I have here is that while you get to enjoy numerous short stories instead of one novel, I’m not sure the flow of it necessarily works. It makes me think was this written solely as a tool of marketing, perhaps.
While I don’t want to give away all the stories by going in-depth I’ll just let you know which was my favorite. For some reason Freak House by Kelly Meding really stuck with me. She isn’t even one of the featured authors, so I found that refreshing to really discover someone new and not just play into the fact that the names on the cover must have written the best stories. Freak House really was a fun little story, and if I’m not mistaken it is one of the few to stand on its own. The basics revolved around supernaturals being captured and displayed in a carnival freak show. It has a great lead character, excellent pacing, and I really felt that it could grow into something more! This story was right up my alley, and I really hope I get to revisit that world again in a standalone novel!
All in all, Carniepunk has its ups and downs. I definitely didn’t love all the stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed enough of them to make the experience enjoyable. I honestly haven’t read many anthologies like this, but I feel like this one was pretty good in the grand scheme of things. I particularly liked the carnival theme, as I think it was very creative! I could totally see this being developed into a miniseries for the screen, with the potential to grow. I would totally recommend this to anyone who either likes the genre, wants a quick fix, or feels like the authors seems interesting. However, as I stated earlier, just keep in mind that this isn’t a true novel.
3 out of 5 Stars
Carniepunk by Various
Gallery Books (2013)
Paperback: 433 pages
Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!