Review posted at The Midnight Garden.On the surface, Carnival of Souls appears to be the perfect book for me. Reading the summary, it was as though Melissa Marr had extracted all the best elements from books I’ve loved and combined them into one story that hit all my buttons: fantasy, supernatural elements, intrigue, and a fair bit of forbidden love. Unfortunately, I found the combination of those factors worked better in theory than on the page. Several different stories are told simultaneously--that of Mallory, the girl living in the human world with her adoptive witch-father, training every day to fight the daimons whom she’s told are after her, though she has no idea why. Kaleb, who is a lower-class daimon--a dog-like shapeshifter--living in the The City, the heart of the daimon world, and fighting in the life or death competition hosted by the Carnival of Souls for a chance to join the ruling class. Aya, a daimon of the elite class fighting in the competition in order to escape marriage and the subsequent breeding, which would reveal a terrible secret that would get her killed.I apologize if that was hard to follow; even in summary it seems to be too much information for one story. In addition to the three main characters, there are two secondary, several other tertiary, and even a couple quaternary (I had to look that up, haha) characters whose backstories are described in detail, for reasons not yet known. I’ve read Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely previously, and loved it as much for Aislinn’s authentic and engaging voice as for the plot. I expected as much from Carnival of Souls, but unfortunately it felt more like character soup. Told in third person POV, there was no real differentiation between any of the characters’ voices that I could discern, and the end result was that I was unable to form much, if any, connection to the characters.Consequently, Kaleb and Mallory’s romance was flat and awkward, leaning heavily on fate-driven insta-love, and lacking any natural progression through their very limited interactions. That on its own would have been annoying at worst, but coupled with a decision Kaleb makes toward the end of the book, let’s just say I’m not rooting for this couple in any way. I am, however, interested in how Aya’s and Belias’ relationship plays out, which I found the most interesting of all the stories being told, and will probably be enough to keep me interested in the sequel.In addition to the wealth of characters, the world building felt a bit overbearing. Told mostly in long paragraphs between dialogue, it read as info-dump rather than an organic reveal within the context of the story. All in all, Carnival of Souls did not live up to my expectations, though I suppose in an ironic kind of way it did live up to its title--it is a carousel of characters and circumstances, one that left me feeling a little dizzy, and very ready to get off.