I’m so pleased to be part of the Write Reads tours for The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge- a literary fantasy full of intrigue, drama, and evil poets.
Genre: Alternate History, Literary fantasy
Source: Rebellion Publishers for a free and unbiased review.
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
I have to confess I was expecting a proper fantasy but once I got my head round the fact this was more literary alternative historical fiction I found myself immersed in this weird world.
Anyone who loves reading, books or poetry will love the world created by Tom Beckerlegge. Cadenza is a city where its leaders are chosen for their skills as a poet and duels are fought with poetry with a unique societal structure based on your literary skill. But if you thought a society based on words would be kinder and fairer, then you are mistaken.
This book is made up of twelve individual cantos ( or parts) – each with its own hero, villain, and story arc but all interlock together to form the larger story of the book.
The first few cantos are lighthearted but they then take a darker turn as we find out the truth of the poet-leader’s death and the dangers that threaten the future of Cadenza. My favourite canto was The Siege of Caterina a story with a surprising ending.
The world-building is truly exquisite and a delight to the addicted reader in me. I loved the descriptions of poetry duels, the plagiarists who kidnap poets for literary ransom, courtesans who ply their trade through words and torture through ink. The prose is beautifully written- I don’t tend to read literary books but I found I couldn’t put the book down. The characters vary from heroic, and naïve to morally grey to outright evil but I was invested in each character’s story.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a well-written book and especially to book lovers.
But I have to stress this is not fantasy despite the blurb and marketing.
References and threats of sexual assault,rape, torture, descriptions of drug addiction, suicide.