I have always found carnivals and traveling fairs very sinister places; places where the ‘freaks’ and dispossessed gather together and, at least in my imagination, seduce the unaware into the underworld, never to be seen again. It seems I’m not alone in my madness as Carniepunk, an anthology of urban fantasy stories set in and around traveling fairs, proves.
There is a wide variety of stories in this book and many, like ‘The Werewife’ by Rachel Caine (one of my favourites) have a dark, surreal, nightmarish quality to them.
For me, the best story in the collection is ‘The Demon Barker of Wheat Street’ by Kevin Hearne. Here, the author manages to blend his vision of hell with comedy – a psychic dog who sees “…a poodle in my future” – very successfully. I was glad to see that the short story takes place within a world created by the author in other books and novellas. I’ll certainly be checking those out soon.
One or two of the tales were a little ‘teenage’ for my tastes, particularly The Cold Girl, again by Rachel Caine, but in an anthology, it’s rare to love every story equally.
If you are a fan of urban fantasy or have a fascination for Carnivale, you could do worse than read this collection of short fiction. A good read.