SPFBO Review: The Carnival of the Night by Nicholas Carey

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39028162In which Kristen attends a Carnival, of sorts. 😀

Some call it purgatory, others know it as the in-between, but for those poor souls who are trapped there eternally, it is simply The Carnival — a macabre mockery where night is never-ending, and a sadistic creature known as The Fool reigns unchallenged. 

And The Fool has one rule: No one leaves The Carnival. Ever. 

Christopher, the latest arrival thrust reluctantly through the gates, is certain that he doesn’t belong there, and he’s damn sure he’s not staying. 

To have any chance of escaping, he must confront not only The Fool, but his own dark past.

Chef’s wicked smile grew, his lips curling devilishly. “Compliments will get you nowhere. Complements, they’ll help you more.”

This book was really very short, and this review of the book is going to be maybe a little bit shorter than my normal billion words. 🙂

This is the story of Christopher, who wakes up one day on a bus with only one other person on it, who tells him that he’s died and is on his way to purgatory. Purgatory, in this case, being the Carnival of the Night, a creepy carnival that never ends that is run by The Fool – not the devil, but certainly devilish.

Cassandra, the girl on the bus, is actually pretty surprised that Christopher can see her because normally nobody can. She’s just there to escort the dead to the Carnival, because, you see, she is Death’s daughter. But, since Christopher can see her, and that’s never ever happened before, she’s inclined to try and help him get out of staying in purgatory, as he is probably special in some way. On top of that, the Fool has managed some extra-dastardly deeds, and now death is… not really death anymore. And the hunt is on to find someone or something that can stop him.

Shenanigans ensue!

This story brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table, however, I didn’t end up loving it like I had hoped to after reading the blurb. But, it did have good things about it, along with things that I didn’t like.

First off, I did not like the main character, and this is almost entirely because of the way in which this story opens. Page one, chapter one – Christopher wakes up on a bus. There is only one other person on that bus. That person happens to be female. What is the first thing that our hero does to the random solitary female bus passenger? He makes the most eye-rollingly skeevy attempt to hit on her. Because of course he does. When that fails miserably, he tries again. This is literally chapter one of this book, and I was already absolutely over it before it even started in earnest.

But, as I said, it is quite short, so we’ll run with it and just not like or care what happens to the main character whatsoever. Which is… more difficult than it sounds, even for a short book. >.>

This book uses language really well sometimes, especially homophones in one part (as you’ll note from my quote above), but it could use further editing in order to make the idea that the author was going for there really shine. Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t chock full of typos or anything, and the formatting was just fine, but there were a few grammatical errors here and there, but the ones that really caught my eye happened to be in a place where language and its usage was quite important.

I liked the idea of purgatory as a carnival, because my purgatory would totally be a never ending carnival, lol. It’s certainly a more modern interpretation of what purgatory would look like. As time passes, the Carnival changes with technology and what have you. Some lesser deities and some mythological creatures from the Greek mythos even make an appearance, and my myth nerd side appreciated it. Having Cerberus make an appearance near the entrance to what is more-or-less the Underworld was kind of a cool idea. More and more mythological personages appear as the book continued, and I liked that a lot.

Christopher meets a new friend or two on his journey through the in-between, and we occasionally see the story from the POV of the two of them. First is Derek, who runs a shooting gallery at the carnival, and maintains a sort of cowboy persona, and Paddy, who is… uh… an unfortunate man in the wrong place at the wrong time, really. For such a short novel though, it does switch POVs a lot. Some chapters are flashbacks of some characters, some are from the POV of characters we never meet again. Others are catching us up on what is happening in the real world as the plot rolls on. There were bits of this that felt rather unnecessary, to be honest.

I’d personally consider this more on the horror side of things than fantasy side, but it definitely had some fantasy elements in it. It gave me a real gory horror for shock value vibe at times, but it did legitimately creep me out at times as well. All the severed heads and talking skulls and what have you.

All told, it wasn’t my favorite story from this year’s SPFBO, but it also wasn’t a bad read. I’d have appreciated a main character that I didn’t find annoying by page two, and I think there are far better ways to make a young male character relatable than making him a creeper right out the gate, but the idea of the story and much of its execution certainly had merit, especially for people that like a horror story with an interesting idea. It had a twist that I didn’t guess, and resolved in a way that wrapped up the plot but left room for further ideas with these characters.

So, I didn’t love it but didn’t hate it. To be honest, that ratio was about 1:1, so this one gets 5/10 stars from me.

You can see this and other reviews of mine on superstardrifter.com 🙂

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