I like Melissa Marr’s work. She’s one of the few paranormal YA authors who doesn’t dress up her protagonists as flighty girls who are irresistibly drawn to the main hero, or if they are, the girl finds out the truth and very noticeably goes “Get the fuck away from me.” And while I wasn’t a huge fan of her previous book, Graveminder, I was really looking forward to Carnival of Souls.I immediately fell in love with this book and its world. The jarring contrast between Aya and Kaleb at the City and the barbaric Carnival and the normal human world where Mallory lives feels shocking when I first opened the book, but it served to pull me in deeper with the twists and turns. On that note, I love Marr’s descriptions, particularly the scenes set at the Carnival. If there’s anything I will give her credit for, she knows how to set a scene. She gives all the details we need to know, while adding an air of mystery. I also really like the world-building, with the rigid class structure of the City and how daimon society operates. The mask motif really adds an air of mystery to the whole thing.This is a book with a lot of characters, and while we get pretty much everyone’s motives, there’s still a lot about the City that we don’t know by the end of the book. And while some of the twists are fairly obvious or even outright stated, it really never brought down my enjoyment of the book. Aside from Mallory’s demon heritage, which we find out in the prologue, there was never a moment where I felt like screaming “JUST SPIT IT OUT ALREADY.” I also like that aside from Mallory, none of our main characters are particularly ‘good’ guys. Aya’s been manipulating several people in order to get into the competition, including sacrificing her own fiancé; Kaleb’s noted as an assassin and is willing to kill anyone who harms his packmate Zevi. (There’s also his stalking of Mallory. I’ll get to that.) I like that these are morally complex characters; that they don’t always do good things, but you want to root for them.So with that: TEAM AYA. Aya I love you. She’s probably one of the most manipulative characters in the whole book, but she does it in a way that tries to benefit everyone involved. And while her motivations may be questionable—specifically, once you find out her heritage and her reasons for wanting in the competition—I still find her reasons for wanting to rule the city admirable, and I want to see if Aya has other methods up her sleeve. On the opposite end is Mallory. Mallory isn’t as strong or memorable as Aya, and really, I don’t feel that she grows much of a spine until the end of the book, but given what happens to her throughout the book, I’m hoping she takes a level in badass in the second book. But despite being a passive character, she is still a good character—I liked that she does feel like a normal, frustrated teenager who wants the chance to do teenage things. And I even liked a lot of the relationship between Mallory and her dad (aside from the mind-wiping. Mallory does get pissed off about that). Kaleb is a lot more problematic for me. On the one hand, I can understand his protection of Zevi and wanting to move further on in the competition to get out of the cur’s life. It’s a large part why Aya seeks Kaleb out and the two strike a deal—they may have different motivations, but they can manipulate each other and everyone around them to get what they want. I am not so cool with the stalking. It’s…acceptable when you learn that Kaleb was originally doing it for an assassination job and just making sure that yes, Mallory was his target. Not so much when it gets to “OMG YOU ARE MY PACKMATE I WILL NEVER EVER LEAVE YOU” and marrying Mallory by proxy and against her will. Again, I’m waiting to see what happens in book 2 (specifically for Mallory’s reaction to all of this). I’m not cool with it overall, but there really wasn’t much to this book that I could react to.My only other issue with the book overall is that it ends on a cliffhanger. We have the main four characters finding out all the information about Mallory and her true parentage and then END. (I remember looking at one point and thinking “How do I have only thirty pages left?!”) Part of me wishes that Carnival of Souls would have ended on a more standalone note (much like Wicked Lovely did), mostly because a lot of the problematic issues that I have with the book go unresolved.However, I had a fantastic time reading this book. The world-building is rich, I love these manipulative characters and all their flaws, and despite some problematic issues, I’m waiting to see how these will be resolved in the long run. I’ve been a big fan of the Wicked Lovely series, and Carnival of Souls definitely lives it up to its predecessor.