I was looking forward to a fun B grade horror experience with this book and that’s mostly what I got. It’s almost Halloween and ‘Carnival of Fear’ is in town for one night only. Advertisements promise
“Terror! Blood! Mayhem! Monsters, Ghouls, and Murderers! Experience the agony of the damned!”
“The World’s Most Terrifying Haunted Mansion! Enter At Your Own Risk!”
They’re not lying!
Several groups of high school students are amongst those who are inside the Castle of Horrors at midnight when hell begins to literally break loose on the town of Whitebridge.
“It’s not like a regular haunted house. There’s only one exit, and you can’t get out until you go through all the rooms. You can do them in any order you want, except for the last one. That’s where the exit is.”
The characters are so clichéd that they’re essentially caricatures. You’ve got the jocks, the cheerleader, the nerds and the goody two shoes. I eagerly anticipated a lot of the characters’ death scenes from our first meeting, particularly those who spouted derogatory homophobic, racist, ableist, misogynist word vomit. I was also keen for the date rapist to be dispatched with the ample blood spatter he deserved.
I had planned on keeping track of all the deaths in the book in order to provide a body count in my review. There were so many that I decided to make up rules about which deaths could be included. They had to happen on page, so no dead bodies that were stumbled upon once they’d already started cooling, and I had to know their name for them to count. Before I made it a third of the way through the book I had already reached double digits so I decided to abandon my tally and just sit back and enjoy the bloodbath instead.
I grinned as B grade horror glory unfolded in front of me. There were some really entertaining over the top deaths. I witnessed a Jason Voorhees/Leatherface mashup, scenes from Alien and every alien invasion movie ever made, witch trials, Frankenstein at work, werewolves and zombies. I was really enjoying being ringside but then, just before 70%, I almost stopped reading. I’m all for slasher bloodshed. I’ll happily cheer on decapitations, limbs getting twisted off bodies, disembowelments and impalements, especially when they happen to a character I love to hate. It’s all part of the fun of B grade horror.
However, the story stopped being fun the moment the vampires started raping at whim. Both male and female characters experienced this, with some rapes happening in full view of the rest of the characters. I hesitated in the beginning when one of the main characters was described as a date rapist but tried to ignore this and simply looked forward to their demise. The story lost me at the first gratuitous sexual assault and while I continued reading until the end, I never got the fun back.
This may not impact on the enjoyment of the story for other readers but personally I felt the topic wasn’t dealt with sensitively at all and didn’t belong in the book in the first place. Its inclusion transformed Carnival of Fear from a fun Halloween read into something I would no longer recommend, which is a shame because the rest of the book was entertaining. Without those scenes I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy B grade horror.
I may have missed something but it seemed like the castle rules changed after midnight. Early on we find out that in order to enter the final room you have to have already completed every other room. There isn’t a single character who enters every room after midnight, yet once at least someone has survived each room those who are left are all allowed to enter the final room.
This book would benefit from a proofreader and some further editing. Some of the writing was fairly crude and there are quite a few typos that hadn’t been corrected in the 2015 version I read. For example, ‘lightning’ is spelt correctly twice. I found it spelt ‘lighting’ once and ‘lightening’ four times. Some repetition also stood out, including “like a shark eats a seal” in chapter 8 and “Like sharks attacking a seal” in chapter 18.
Content warnings include sexual assault and a school shooting.
Thank you to NetGalley and Victory Editing for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
The Halloween carnival seemed like the perfect way to spend a Friday night, but when a group of teenagers find themselves trapped in the haunted mansion, they learn the awful truth about the carnival, and the demons that run it. Now they’re trapped, fighting their way through a maze of torturous attractions where vampires, werewolves, aliens, and other monsters come to life, eager for human blood. As the body count rises, friendships are made and lost, and unlikely heroes emerge. The final showdown takes place in Hell, where the ultimate battle between good and evil will determine their fate. The Carnival of Fear – the price of admission is your soul!