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. . . .
A carnival is the perfect setting for an urban fantasy story. The strange characters, promise of magic, threat of sinister doings alongside unhealthy treats but mostly just a lot of fun. Some of these stories were fun diversions and others made me want to jump off and find another ride.
Most of these stories tie into series and some standalone better than others. I’m only familiar with one series (the Iron Druid Chronicles, which I’ve reviewed here before) but other contributors are big names in the genre. The Iron Druid tale is a nice piece that adds to that world but it suffers from the same problem many of these stories do. If you’re not familiar with the characters and settings then it feels like jumping in on a TV show in the middle of an episode in the middle of the second season. Too often I was pulled out of a story by wanting to figure out who the characters were and that their deal was.
Only one story lead to me finding and checking out a book from the series. “The Three Lives of Lydia” is part of the Blud series. Normally I wouldn’t go for steampunk vampires, but the story is sweet, sinister, and has an intriguing twist at the end. Seanan McGuire’s “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea” is a sad tale where the threat comes from outside of the carnival. The other stories that stand out to me were more because of how lost I felt reading them but overall, it was a good bunch of rides and attractions and I didn’t feel sick at the end.
I’d recommend this to fans of any of the authors in the collection but I don’t think this would be the best introduction to individual authors. People who like sinister carnivals but aren’t into any of these authors may enjoy Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love or Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Urban fantasy collections are plentiful and may offer better stories to get acquainted with new authors though.