The Myriad Carnival focuses on losing yourself among people who will accept you no matter what differences you have: whether that is having a winged arm, a form of magic, or loving someone in a time when you could only love certain someones; the Carnival accepts all. Oftentimes it is difficult to produce a short story that engages the reader in a way that novels can solely because of their short form. It’s more challenging than a longer piece, because you don’t have pages and pages to get the reader hooked; you have the first paragraph and perhaps five to ten pages. A majority of these stories succeeded, with Boxes, Our Scalloped Bitch, and El Amor Brujo on the top of my list. They, along with others, were written beautifully, their styles bringing to mind the very Carnival they were set in. Others were not as successful, at least for me, but that is the nature of anthologies: the editor hopes that a mix of stories, styles, and authors will interest many types of readers instead of just one. Notably, the one that was the worst was the one entitled As Mephistopheles said…. It was lewd and full of gratuitous violence and sex, culminating in several rape scenes. I heartily wish the editor had rejected it for this anthology, because I felt that it brought down the stories as a whole by including it with the others. The writing was not good enough to get me past the garbage that was in the story, and it didn’t match as well to the theme of the Carnival.
On a higher note, I enjoyed that the stories reflected the transience of the carnival and the good and bad that comes with them when they roll into town. There were several stories and their authors that I will be interested in reading again. It’s a little difficult to review an anthology without ruining every story that is contained within, but as a whole, they fit together well as a collection.
Boxes, M. Regan: Set in a time when things were jake and you earned clams, Lenore loves the freedom that walking the wires gives her from her past and her present. Along with her friend Charlie, who fits himself into increasingly smaller boxes for the thrill that he gets from bursting out of them, they discover something unlikely on one of the funhouse mirrors: a chrysalis, the life inside just as delicate and beautiful as Lenore and Charlie’s acts at the Carnival. I absolutely loved the writing style of this one. M. Regan has a talent for spinning a setting with the words she chooses to use. I love alliteration and it was used beautifully here.
Our Scalloped Bitch, Michael Leonberger: It used to be difficult for Sharon to express herself due to a speech problem. Now that years have passed, she begins to think of a time when she ran with the Myriad Carnival and she loved a girl named Tricia. Now she has the words, yet she still struggles to speak of the time when Tricia went out into the night to save children and didn’t come back–yet at the same time, she did come back. Again, I really enjoyed the writing style of this story, which seems to be the theme for the ones I truly liked.
El Amor Brujo, Evey Brett: A mysterious boy shows up at the Carnival with powers that he struggles to control. As his past catches up to his present, he must solve a mystery that those at the Carnival don’t talk about. Doing so may put his life–and those of others–in danger. This story was one of the first stories in the anthology that I liked and felt had a coherent ending.
The anthology as a whole receives 3 stars.
The Myriad Carnival came out in February. I was provided a copy for an honest review.