Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy's biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world...
Rachel Caine's vampires aren't child's play, as a naive teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in "The Cold Girl." With "Parlor Tricks," Jennifer Estep pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. Seanan McGuire narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in "Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea." Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" that the impossibly wholesome Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, Rob Thurman reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in "Painted Love."
The anthology, Carniepunk was a rather delightful read filled with tales of the horrors of the traveling carnival! It really make you want to reconsider visiting it the next time it rolls to town since you won't know which of the 14 horrors you might find there!
Going to just go through the 14 tales quick and brief and say what I liked or didn't like about them. Anthologies are so hard to review!
Painted Love by Rob Thurman was the first tale and it was pretty extraordinary. True, there's a bit of confusion at first, but it has one of those endings that make you go, "Ahhh, I see!" and totally puts the whole story into perspective! Like The Sixth Sense in some ways!! Really liked this one!
Delilah S. Dawson's The Three Lives of Lydia was a tale of similar quality. The ending definitely makes you go "Ahhh, I see!" when you realize the full extent of Lydia's character. She arrives in the land of Sang and we see some familiar faces. It takes place before Wicked as She Comes, just so you know!
The Demon Barker of Wheat Street was Kevin Hearne's second novella in his Iron Druid series. Which I've fallen behind in again, but just by the latest release! This takes place during Granualie's 12 year apprenticeship. Here, she, Atticus and of course, Oberon the cheerful Irish wolfhound find themselves attending a carnival...run by demons set to steal your soul!
Mark Henry's The Sweeter the Juice was a story I couldn't quite get into. It involved zombies in some way. But for some reason I found myself a bit confused during my reading of it. The characters were definitely interesting and entertaining though.
The Werewife by Jaye Wells was quite a surprise. Brad and Annie are a married couple that have a few issues. They sought out counseling...and oh yeah, Annie's a werewolf. Brad constantly finds himself having to clean up her "leftovers" until one day they return to the carnival that brought about the start of all their furry problems. It was an interesting story with a pretty surprising ending! I liked it though!
Rachel Caine's The Cold Girl was probably my favorite of the anthology, and it's weird since the paranormal element really didn't take place til the end. Kiley is a young teen in love with her best friend/boyfriend. Life should be perfect. Yet, Jamie has a dark secret. And then when Kiley finds that out, well, things don't look too good for her. It was quite shocking in some ways with all that happened. But I must say I loooooved how it ended all around!
I tried reading Allison Pang's series awhile back but it was one that I couldn't really get into after long. But I was familiar with some of the faces that I saw in A Duet with Darkness. Here we see Melanie traveling in a band. They have a gig at a carnival and there Melanie meets another violinist who is pretty damn good. But things take a dark path once her violin is destroyed and after that, things just don't look good for Melanie.
Hillary Jacques is a totally new to me author and really the only one in this anthology I've not heard of. Her story, Recession of the Divine, involved an insurance claims chick named Olivia who was once a Greek goddess. A Muse visits her often and asks her when she might return home--Olympus. But when she starts looking into the cause of a fire at a carnival, things don't turn out so good for her. In fact, she becomes a prisoner. This one was good, yet at times I felt a little lost.
Jennifer Estep's story takes us to her adult series world of Element Assassin Gin Blanco. In Parlor Tricks, Gin assists her sister is a missing persons case involving a young teenager. She went missing at the carnival and when this sisterly duo goes to investigate they realize just how long this carnival has been around and how and why girls go missing.
Kelly Meding's Freak House was one that I quite enjoyed! I don't know if this has potential to be a series or something, but it kind of had that feel! Shiloh is a half-Djinn out to rescue her father who's been kidnapped by a powerful magician who is holding him and other paranormal creatures captive in his "freak show" lineup. Shiloh gets some assistance from an unlikely source and by the end, you get the feeling that more might be coming for Shiloh. As I said, it has definite series potential.
Nicole Peeler once again returns with her cast of characters from the Jane True world with some people we saw in the last novella. In The Inside Man, we return to Capitola Jones and her friends, doing what they do best, solving mysteries. This time they have to find a missing person, who obviously went missing at the carnival. And horror of horrors, what they find is an evil clown who is stealing people's souls. Clowns are just freaky!
A Chance in Hell was Jackie Kessler's contribution. I am not familiar with her adult series, so I assume this is a novella that stems from that. Jezebel is an ex-demon meant to save humanity from Hell taking over and one day, she'll have to fight the "Boss." In the meantime, she is training in all forms, including learning about humanity. When her friend, Ceci, takes her to the carnival for her lesson she finds that it's runs by demons...familiar demons. And it will be up to her to save her friend's soul before the demons take it for their own.
Hell's Menagerie is set in Kelly Gay's adult series, Charlie Madigan. But it's not Charlie we see, instead it's her daughter Emma. Emma is set on rescuing her group of hellhound puppies. With Rex at her side and her other hellhound Brim, the kid's got a lot of gumption. This one was a little hard to get through since I couldn't get far into this series either. But it was also difficult due to fights to the death that the animals partook in by force at this scary ass carnival!
Senan McGuire's, another author who I have not read from, Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open Lovely Sea was yet another odd tale. Ada is a seventeen year old girl and the daughter of the mermaid. She was born and raised in the carnival and it's the life that she knows and loves. But when they come to a town in Alabama, they realize they've been there before and the carnival rarely returns to Alabama and Ada is about to find out why. This one was slightly confusing. It's all carnival life for the most part, then we get some backstory on Ada's mom and then it's the end where all the drama and action comes in.
Overall this anthology was quite the read! I enjoyed a lot of the stories, some only somewhat. But by knowing and loving a good deal of the authors I found reading the whole thing to be worth it!
Overall Rating 4/5 stars