Where the Carnies Are by Kayla Curry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This review was done on behalf of The Author Visits: http:theauthorvisits.com
Note – the author provided a copy of the book for an unbiased review in return.
The Magical Land of the Carnival Kingdom. This is a short, sweet paranormal fantasy that is really a fairytale in disguise. Olive Sear is having a REALLY bad day – she caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman, she lost her job, her car stopped working on her way to going back to live with her parents, and it was raining….so when she suddenly finds herself in a bouncy house after taking off across the muddy fields to find a phone, she doesn’t flinch, being already numb from the days events. She continues on into the strange carnival-like place. The first person she mets, Alex, a sword thrower, becomes her guide into this new and fascinating place where she feels strangely at home. A closed, magical kingdom where carnies spend their off-season and retirement lives.
Pros: The characters are likable. A must for me. And plenty of side characters to liven up the place. At the end of the book we are promised “Sideshow,” a collection of 26 flash fiction stories about these side characters, which is what I wanted, although the link didn’t go anywhere at this time. Hopefully they are coming. They interested me, and I wanted more. This world she created was imaginative, and fascinating, and I wanted to step right into it. The author shows great promise, obviously loves a charming story, and a good, solid editor could fix some of the issues mentioned below, and help flesh out some of the people, and the in-between action scenes. I wanted more carny life. Her tone though is perfect for the story, and she obviously knows her knife-throwing stuff. She creates a world you hunger for more of. Who are these carnie folk, how did they come to be there, are they are born carnies, or are there any “new blood” ones? The castle, where a lot of the action occurs, is intriguing, mystifying and perfect for the book.
Cons: First person voice, which jumps in tense in some places. But it works for me, seeing everything through her eyes, even though it isn’t usually what I like. The characters are simplistic, slightly cardboard, and each has a place in the resolution of the story, and sometimes that is all they seem to be there for. There are some inconsistencies in the story, actions left out or skipped over where a page break or something would be appropriate, and places where it was confusing. She asks why her parents didn’t want her to know about carnie life, after just saying that she never knew them (her birth parents). She doesn’t seem to feel alarmed or freaked out as she casually absorbs the workings and people in the carnival kingdom. A normal response for a young woman, who just had a horrendous day, only to be confronted by a wondrous magical place, would either be to break down in tears, or dig in her heels and demand to see someone in charge. But instead, she allows herself to be cared for by the first person she meets, and towed round like a doll.
It doesn’t hurt of course that he is dressed like a pirate for his knife throwing act, and is handsome to boot. She hasn’t been there more than a few hours before she is agreeing to be his assistant until the gates open again in 2 months. Again, no break-down over that either. She is going to be there for two months, and she just accepts it. She takes the attitude that she must have carnie birth parents and so goes right for it. And although there is mention that an “advancer” – someone who can get out of the kingdom when the gates are closed – could get a message to her parents, she doesn’t do so in the month that goes by. Under the guise of “building trust,” she is blindfolded and led around the kingdom. Not sure most young women would go for that, with someone they just met the day before, under very strange circumstances. Her absolute trust in him, so soon, does’t read “real.” By the first few days they are in romance mode, and by the week’s end, in love. Too quick to be believable, but not if it’s a fairy tale. But when she finds out something special about him, instant change – she must be dreaming. Tends to go back and forth. Told she’s in a bubble, not on any planet, and the stars and sun aren’t real, are merely an illusion, and all she says is “Wow. That’s an interesting fact.”
But there is plenty of carny action, and in true fairy tale fashion, the bad are vanquished or rehabilitated, and everyone goes home happy and taken care of.
I think that’s why this became a fairy tale for me. While it can be classified as a paranormal fantasy, it’s slight nature, the somewhat two-dimensional characters, and the neat way everything got tidied up and resolved felt like one of the hundreds of fairy tales I read growing up. But in spite of this, I happen to love fairy tales, and when I had to stop reading in the middle and wait for the next day to finish, I was anxious to get back to the story, and kept thinking about it, always a great sign. The story was clean, love scenes were few and “fade-to-black,” so it’s suitable for the YA crowd. And I loved it’s cheerful, hopeful nature. So, judging it as a YA fairy tale,
My Rating: 4 /12 pixie dusted stars
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