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Carnival Charlatan is an urban fantasy with a bunch of twists.
I was enthralled by Emma Bull's War For the Oaks when it came out in the 1980s, but I got tired of the genre by the mid-90s when it seemed like everyone was writing about edgy elves living in the alleys on the seedy side of town.
Skeeter breathed some new life into the genre.
For starters, her heroine, Ariel, isn't an elf living on the edge in a city. She's a witch in a travelling carnival where she disguises the fact that she's a witch by being a fortune teller. If you claim to be magic in a world of fakery, everyone knows that you can't really do magic.
The depth of Skeeter's portrayal of the carnie crowd would be worth the price of admission to the book without the rest of the story. It's the most realistic portrayal of that world that I've read since Fred Brown's Hunter stories.
Skeeter told me that she did serious research into the carnie lifestyle and had the book proofed by some folks who actually live the life she portrayed.
A story about the carnival and the folks who live there could be as interesting as a history text. A heroine needs a problem or two.
The problems Ariel faces aren't just the psychotic serial killer out to rid the world of witches but some confrontations in the Land of the Fae that leak into our universe.
By the end of the story, Ariel has either wrapped up the issues, or at least taken them off the front burner. Skeeter does a good job of providing the reader with minor events that become significant later. The solutions to the problems feel right, not contrived.
While Skeeter tied off the major threads in this story, she left plenty of hooks for sequels. She hinted at Ariel becoming a pawn in Fae politics, left a potential romance in limbo and had a few events that should be left to surprise the reader.
I like Ariel and the rest of the good-guys and I look forward to more stories in this universe. I hope that they stay small and personal, and don't evolve into Fate-Of-The-Universe adventures in the Realm of the Fae.