Carniepunk is an urban fantasy anthology centered around carnivals. And mostly, it is centered around the evil that stalks, lurks, haunts, owns, creates, or exploits carnivals. Or it does some or all of the above. Nowhere in this anthology was there a purely happy carnival, though Seanan McGuire's story ("Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea") stands out as the only one where the people of the carnival are actually the good guys.
"Painted Love" by Robert Thurman. This story followed a sociopath's hanger-on as the hanger-on grows a conscience. The resolution was niftier than I expected.
"The Three Lives of Lydia" by Delilah Dawson. The tattoos make her stand out in an alternate universe, but what is real about her life? While the resolution made me sad, it was very well crafted.
"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" by Kevin Hearne. This is an episode in the Iron Druid series, which I have not read. But I like the dog and the dog's attitude a lot.
"The Sweeter the Juice" by Mark Henry. This story dealt with post-zombie society where our heroine wants to complete her sex change. It did not make me happy at the end At. All.
"The Werewife" by Jaye Wells. Carnivals bring out the worst in some people. Or their deepest desires. Or both. Again, I really liked the ending.
"The Cold Girl" by Rachel Caine. A particular incarnation of Death runs/stalks a carnival. She and a dying teenager get into an argument about how to be undead. It felt much more like a YA story than many. This is not a bad thing, just a different tone in the anthology.
"A Duet with Darkness" by Allison Pang. This is part of the Abby Sinclair universe, which I have not read. A Juilliard runaway ends up at the Crossroads Carnival. We all know who hangs out at the crossroads with a violin... I wasn't so pleased with the story, but I loved the story of the music.
"Recession of the Divine" by Hillaru Jacques. She gets marks for calling in the Greek gods and even making their powers more relevant. The magical descriptions were too vague for me to get a good grasp on the main character. This was unfortunate, because I liked where she was going.
"Parlor Tricks" by Jennifer Estep. This is an episode in the Elemental Assassin series. I think I made I through the first book. I like a heroine with knives. But it seemed a thin plot even for a short story.
"Freak House" by Kelly Meding. This is part of the "Strays" series, and something I should hunt down. I like the mix of characters and types. Leprechauns and djinn don't usually hang out with werewolves. Note to self: go find Meding's work.
"The Inside Man" by Nicole Peeler. This is part of the Jane True series, which I've not read. I like the characters a great deal, but the plot was entirely been-and-read-that. Sigh.
"A Chance in Hell" by Jackie Kessler. I liked the idea of various demons mixing it up, and what happens when you get bored of hell and get a chance to snag a shiny new soul and try again for a little while.
"Hell's Menagerie" by Kelly Gay. This was part of the Charlie Madagan series. And this was yet another story where there was a lot of backstory to the characters who were going to rescue a litter of hell hounds from becoming circus acts and then pit fighters.
"Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea" by Seanan McGuire. What evil lurks in small town America that would make someone want to run away to be a freak in a carnival? It was a pretty and melancholy story. Just like McGuire's usual work.
I picked it up because I like anthologies and I like both Caine and McGuire. I recommend it to people who already hate carnivals rather than those of us who still like to believe they are full of joy and innocence.
Books for 2013