- Genre: Adult Fantasy
- Length: 528 Pages
- Publishing: 15th March 2022
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1786185008/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58438204-the-carnival-of-ash
An extravagant, lyrical fantasy about a city of poets and librarians. A city that never was.
Cadenza is the City of Words, a city run by poets, its skyline dominated by the steepled towers of its libraries, its heart beating to the stamp and thrum of the printing presses in the Printing Quarter.
Carlo Mazzoni, a young wordsmith arrives at the city gates intent on making his name as the bells ring out with the news of the death of the city’s poet-leader. Instead, he finds himself embroiled with the intrigues of a city in turmoil, the looming prospect of war with their rival Venice ever-present. A war that threatens not only to destroy Cadenza but remove it from history altogether…
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
The Carnival of Ash is a dark, alternate-history fantasy set in the city of Cadenza. In this Italian medieval-type city, the world’s writers reside and work. Full of libraries and artistic people, no one was prepared for the upheaval and war that comes about when the town’s leader turns up dead.
My Initial Impressions:
First, I read the book blurb, and I thought, “What a remarkable fantasy city – a city of words!” I fell in love with that idea and imagined a utopia of sorts where words reigned supreme. Then I saw the cover, which definitely screams carnival to me. The artist’s renderings of the city are indeed outstanding. I thought the war mentioned in the blurb would be one where it became essential to save the city of words and that there would be heroes who did just that. And I wondered what the title meant, as it didn’t seem to connect to what I imagined the story would be.
My Actual Reading Experience:
Right from the beginning, I noticed the author’s use of lyrical prose and think it is absolutely perfect for this story which holds poets in such important regard. The writing reminded me of the English translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and I enjoyed that very much. The first two characters I met – Carlo and Ercole – were witty, somewhat dark, and very intriguing. I was eager to get to know them better.
I also loved that it is structured like an epic poem, with Cantos instead of Chapters. Each canto, much like in poetry, focuses on a different perspective on the city and what is happening. Then it all comes together in the final canto. Each canto concentrates on another character, which was unexpected but that I rather enjoyed.
Lastly, the world-building is very detailed and believable. It feels like there should have been a town called Cadenza full of writers and poets back in medieval times – it feels so authentic and plausible.
What I Wish:
I wish that I had enjoyed the story. Even though I wanted more fantasy elements in this fantasy story, I still loved the premise, the structure, and the writing. But, I did not enjoy the reading experience at all from the 2nd canto onward to the end. For me, it read slow, dark, and too full of misogynistic men without any hope of redemption. This made for a slow, depressing read that I struggled to get through. I know other readers from this blog tour have loved it, and I invite you to read their reviews for a different perspective. You can find a few of those reviews here:
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love a unique writing style and are not bothered by a dark, alternate -timeline and the thoroughly misogynistic world, The Carnival of Ash is a fantasy you will want to consider, though, for me, it was definitely a book that I would skip if I had to do it over again.
Tom Beckerlegge grew up in the northwest of England in a house filled with books. Writing as Tom Becker, he won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with his debut novel; The Carnival of Ash is his first adult book. He lives in Enfield with his wife and young son.