I don’t normally read many anthologies, but Carniepunk is actually my second collection this year (the first was The Weird Old South). Carniepunk is a collection of, you guessed it, urban fantasy and steam punk stories dealing with carnivals and the mysteries that surround them. Magic, demons, witches, and evil-most-foul abound through its pages.
I had previously read only two of the authors in this collection—Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne—both are favorites of mine, and both of their stories are super-awesome, as long as you follow their other work—Hearne’s Iron Druid series more-so. You could probably get away with not having read Dawson’s Blud books before and still enjoying “The Three Lives of Lydia.” Also included in this collection are stores from *deep breath*: Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Gay, Mark Henry, Hillary Jacques, Jackie Kessler, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole D. Peeler, Bob Thurman, and Jaye Wells.
Because of the nature of anthologies, especially with this one being so long, I’m not going to go story by story, instead, I’ll just highlight a few high points and low points.
Low-points: I hate to single out a specific author/story, but “Hell’s Menagerie” by Kelly Gay is definitely the weakest story in this collection for me. The story revolves around two people who go to a carnival in search of a kidnapped Hellhound and her puppies. The story itself is interesting, but the way it’s told is distracting. The point of view literally switches back and forth between the two characters on every page with no real reason. It could have easily stayed in the p.o.v. of the girl and nothing in the story would have been lost. Also, the narrator (whoever that may be at the time) tends to ramble on about unimportant details.
Another low-point is Jaye Wells’s “The Werewife,” a story about a husband and wife struggling with the wife’s werewolf curse. Neither of the characters are likeable in anyway, and I really didn’t care if one of them wound up killing the other because I wanted them both dead. The redeeming point in this story, though, is the ending. I was so happy when the husband and wife don’t wind up back together all happily-ever-after.
High Points: Getting additional Iron Druid and Blud stories is always fun, and a given, so that’s the last I am going to mention them. There were lots of authors who told such delightful short stories, that I now wish to read more of their works, and it’s those I want to focus on.
Mark Henry’s story “The Sweeter the Juice” is one that really caught my attention. It is the first time I think I’ve ever read a story where the main character is Transgender (pre-op male to female), and I found the premise fascinating. What would happen to those individuals who were seeking gender reassignment during the zombie apocalypse? What drastic lengths would they go to? While not my favorite story in this anthology, it was definitely one that piqued my interest.
“Freak House” by Kelly Meding gets the prize for the story by a new author (new to me, that is) that I enjoyed most. It’s about a half-djinn woman named Shiloh Harrison who attends a private, rich-man’s “carnival” that features a literal menagerie of supernatural beings, one of which is her father, an 800-year-old djinn who she intends to rescue. Meding does a wonderful job of world-building, which is a difficult task in a short-story, and I want to read more about the Paras (short for paranormal beings) of this world.
Over-all, Carniepunk is a magnificent collection. There’s only a couple of stories that I felt I was slogging through. But mostly, it was fun, creepy, and most of all, entertaining. And, I do believe that I have several new authors and series that I need to check out.
Note: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Carniepunk will be officially released on July 23, 2013.