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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Anthology: "Carniepunk"

Authors:  Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Rob Thurman, and others
Title:  Carniepunk   
Plot Type: varies by story but includes paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and horror 
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster (7/2013) 

     First, let me alert you to the fact that this is not a paranormal romance anthology, so if you're looking for angst-filled, lust-driven stories, this isn't the book for you. But...if you're interested in dark urban fantasy filled with fascinating  (sometimes grotesque) creatures, strong lead characters (mostly female), and twisted plots, you've come to the right place. 

     Here's a brief introduction from the publisher's blurb: "The traveling carnival is a leftover of a bygone era, a curiosity lurking on the outskirts of town. It is a place of contradictionsthe 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....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." All of the stories are set in some type of carnival—from the regular Ferris wheel/corn dog type to exotic freak shows. In nearly every case, the man (or woman) in charge is the villain, and this is always obvious from the very beginning of the story.

     The quality varies from story to story, of course, but most of them are above average, particularly the ones authored by Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep, and Seanan McGuire. Some stories are parts of ongoing series; others appear to be stand-alones. In the case of the series-connected stories, you don't need the series background to understand what's going on.

     If you love dark urban fantasy with tough, assertive, street-wise female heroines, you should check out the "Seven Deadly Heroines" list complied by RT Book Reviews (6/2012). Click HERE to go to my review, which includes the author's name and series title for each kick-ass heroine.

            THE STORIES            

ROB THURMAN: "Painted Love"
First Line: "Love is a bitch."
     A sociopath gets more than he bargained for when he menaces a carnie fortune teller and her sister. The story is narrated by the bad guy's traveling companion, and you'll be surprised when you learn his identity—or, rather, his nature. 
DELILAH S. DAWSON: "The Three Lives of Lydia" (from the BLUD SERIES)
First Line: "Lydia woke to the curious sound of a calliope."
Ratings: Violence 4; Sensuality 2; Humor 2   
     This story takes place before book 1 of the series. Lydia is a Stranger in the world of Sang, waking up in the midst of Criminy Stain's Clockwork Caravan and finding love with Charlie Dregs, a Bludman. Click HERE to read my reviews of the BLUD SERIES
KEVIN HEARNE: "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" (from the IRON DRUID SERIES)
First Line: "I fear Kansas."
Ratings: Violence 5; Sensuality 0; Humor 2   
     The story takes place six years after Tricked (book 4) and two weeks after the events of the novella "Two Ravens and One Crow." Atticus, Granuaile, and Oberon visit a Kansas carnival and get drawn into a demonic soul-collection trap. Click HERE to read my reviews of the IRON DRUID SERIES. Always fun to watch the dynamic duo of Atticus and Granuaile in action.
MARK HENRY: "The Sweeter the Juice"
Final 3 Lines: "And I close me eyes, tilting my cheek toward his lips. But it's not a kiss he delivers. It's a slow, wet lick."  
     A horror story featuring gender switching during the zombie apocalypse. This is a very dark, strange story that ends horribly for the (anti-) hero and his/her pregnancy-fetishist friend. A disturbing tale.
JAYE WELLS: "The Werewife"
First Line: "Brad should've left the minute he saw the kitchen." 
Ratings: Violence 3; Sensuality 1; Humor 1   
     Brad is a human married to an out-of-control werewolf who tries to kill him (and any other warm-blooded creature with whom she crosses paths) during the full moon. He's desperate to solve his life-style problem, and when the carnival comes to town, he knows just what to do. Nice, very satisfactory twist to the ending.
     Click HERE to read my reviews of Wells' SABINA KANE SERIES. 
RACHEL CAINE: "The Cold Girl"
First Line: "It took me two days to die." 
     A teenage girl learns the hard way that her boyfriend isn't what he seems when they spend the evening at a traveling carnival, but she does get her revenge in a most gratifying manner.
     Click HERE to read my reviews of Caine's OUTCAST SEASON SERIES. Click HERE to read my reviews of her REVIVALIST TRILOGY. 
ALLISON PANG: "A Duet with Darkness" (from the ABBY SINCLAIR SERIES)
First Line: "The van stinks of fried chicken and musty clothes." 
     A talented violinist learns some truths about her talent and is forced to make a demonic choice. I have not read this series, but was able to enjoy the story as a stand-alone.
HILLARY JACQUES: "Recession of the Divine"
Final Lines: 
     "So you're coming back to Olympus, and you're going to go all bad mother—" 
     Olivia grinned. "Shut your mouth." 
Ratings: Violence 4; Sensuality 1; Humor 2   
     A now-human Olympian goddess has a run-in with a wicked carnival owner and lives to tell the tale. The mythology lends itself to being developed into a series, but I couldn't find any evidence that the author is going forward with it.
Final Line: "Whistling, I slid my knife back up my sleeve and left the Wheel of Death and the stage behind."
     Gin and her sister, Bria, head to the carnival in search of a missing young girl and find themselves in a world of trouble. This is one of my favorite UF series, and this rare sisterly adventure is one of the best in the book.
     Click HERE to read my review of the ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN SERIES. 
KELLY MEDING: "Freak House" (from the STRAYS SERIES)
First Line: "How exactly does one acquire their very own djinn?" 
     This is a prequel story for an upcoming series involving a diverse supernatural world. Shiloh is a half-human/half-djinn who teams up with a human mercenary and a newly turned werewolf to rescue her father from captivity in a bizarre traveling freak show. 
     Click HERE to read my reviews of Meding's META WARS SERIES. Click HERE to read my reviews of her DREG CITY SERIES. 
NICOLE PEELER: "The Inside Man" (set in the JANE TRUE WORLD)
First Line: "When someone comes into your office and tells you that small towns in the Midwest have gone dull, you don't rush out with the cavalry." 
Ratings: Violence 4; Sensuality 0; Humor 2   
     The lead characters in this story were introduced in the novella, Something Wikkid This Way ComesCapitola (Cappie) Jones, the narrator, is half nahual (shape-shifter); Emuishere (Moo) is a halfling Alfar; and Shar is a halfling succubus. Cappie's nahual father is the leader of the supernatural community of Borealis, and her uncle is Jane True's lover, Anyan. In this adventure, the girls get involved with a demonic clown who sucks the memories from those who attend his carnival performance. Because Jez still has vestiges of her incubus identity, this is the sexiest of all the stories.
     Click HERE to read my reviews of Peeler's JANE TRUE SERIES. 
JACKIE KESSLER: "A Chance in Hell"  
First Line: "A demon was eating my face." 
Ratings: Violence 4; Sensuality 4; Humor x   
     Jezebel is an ex-incubus—now living as a human—who is forced to retrieve her human friend's soul from a powerful demon lord who runs a traveling carnival to which he lures unsuspecting humans. 
 KELLY GAY: "Hell's Menagerie" (from the CHARLIE MADIGAN SERIES) 
First Line: "Why did I let her talk me into this?" 
    A little girl (Charlie Madigan's daughter) and her father go to Hell (actually, to Charbydon) to rescue some Hellhound puppies and get into just as much trouble as you would expect. I haven't read this series, but I was able to enjoy it as a stand-alone.
SEANAN McGUIRE: "Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea"  
First Line: "If there's one thing seventeen years of traveling with the Miller Family Carnival has taught me, it's that harvesttime is carnival time." 
Ratings: Violence 3; Sensuality 0; Humor 2   
     A young girl learns the truth about her mermaid mother's past and must deal with the consequences of coming back to Mom's home town in rural Alabama.    
     Click HERE to read my reviews of McGuire's OCTOBER DAYE SERIES. Click HERE to read my reviews of her INCRYPTID SERIES.

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