Authors: Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, Kevin Hearne, Rob Thurman et al.
Release date: July 23rd 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Source: Publisher for review
Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world. . . .Carnivals! As someone who dislikes crowds and cheap, unhealthy food, I must admit I am not a fan. But in the hands of my favorite urban fantasy authors, even a carnival can become the most exhilarating thing. Leave it to Rob Thurman, Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Rachel Caine, Allison Pang, Hillary Jacques, Jennifer Estep, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, Jackie Kessler, Kelly Gay and Seanan McGuire to make even crowds seem suddenly appealing.
RACHEL CAINE’s vampires aren’t child’s play, as a naïve teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in “The Cold Girl.” With “Parlor Tricks,” JENNIFER ESTEP pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. SEANAN McGUIRE narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea.” KEVIN HEARNE’s Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” that the impossibly wholesome sounding Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, ROB THURMAN reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in “Painted Love.”
It seems that Kevin Hearne functions much better in the short story format. Deprived of the chance to indulge in long and dull mythology lectures, he focuses on his characters and action. In his story, Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon visit Granuaile’s home town in disguise, but instead of family, they end up facing demons. Oberon plays a pretty big role in the story and he is as entertaining as ever so fans of the Irish Wolfhound have a lot to look forward to.
I gave up on the Elemental Assassin series ages ago, when things between Gin and Owen became unnecessarily complicated, but I must admit I enjoyed Parlor Tricks, Jennifer Estep’s contribution to this anthology. In it, Gin and her sister Bria search for a missing girl, last seen visiting the carnival the previous night. Those who follow the series and know about the strained relationship between the sisters will thoroughly enjoy their easy banter and partnership in this story. And of course, as a special treat, Gin’s sarcasm gets unleashed as her disdain for carnivals comes to light.
Hell’s Menagerie by Kelly Gay brings us back to the amazing Charlie Madigan series. I was devastated when this series ended so a short story from Rex’s perspective was like a balm for my wounds. Rex was always my favorite and his relationship with Emma never failed to bring a smile to my face. This story takes place during Charlie’s quest to Elysia (no spoilers), so it’s just Rex and Emma, saving their exotic hellhound puppies from a traveling circus.
The Jane True story doesn’t focus on Jane or Anyan, but on the secondary (well, tertiary) characters Capitola, Moo and Shar. The girls are investigating a rather interesting case that takes them straight to a carnival. The story is told in Capitola’s point of view and is both energetic and hilarious.
Another noteworthy story is The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry. Transsexuals, sex reassignment surgeries, hysterical pregnancies, all in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Sounds interesting? I thought so. The first half of this story is an exercise in hilarity, and the second half combines humor, gore and non stop action. My recommendation? Read it, or better yet, listen to it. The narrator contributed a great deal to Mark Henry’s brisk humor.
And while we’re on the subject of narrators, Carniepunk is narrated by Candace Thaxton and Kirby Heyborne. They alternate in narrating stories and they’re equally good. Both their voices are pleasant and unobtrusive. The only advantage Ms. Thaxton has over her colleague is her talent for accents. She is far more adaptable in that regard.
I’ve only mentioned the stories that stood out in some way, but I enjoyed every one of them, which is SO rare with anthologies. In fact, I dare say this is the best anthology I've ever come across. I highly recommend Carniepunk to all urban fantasy fans, and if you get a chance, do yourselves a favor and get the audiobook.