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Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.
But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?
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Oh, look, it’s your girl, Mandy, who is about to go on another rant. I feel like this is becoming A Thing, and I wish it would stop, but this book brought the fire in me.
This book was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2018. I thought the first book in the series was so-so but saw a lot of promise in it. With Hunting Prince Dracula, I saw so much greatness, and it really solidified Maniscalco as an author of ultimate mood writing. The setting was so lush and brought the magic. So, I was so hype for this book which would be tackling a carnival, magic, Houdini, and cruise liner with my darling loves, Audrey Rose and Thomas. Where could this go wrong?
MILD SPOILERS HERE, BUT I MEAN, KIND OF, MAYBE, EH, JUST KNOW THERE IS THINGS ABOUT TO BE DISCUSSED THAT MIGHT BE SPOILERS BUT IDK. IT’S JUST ME GENERAL RANTING:
Enter, stage left: the unholy love triangle.
I really don’t get what the point of a love triangle brings a series. I used to see this so often in YA second series books. The first book would introduce us to a lovely love interest, which we would promptly fall in love with and love the characters and the plot and everything. But then the second book would bring us some pointless love triangle that had me coining a term, the Dreaded Sequel Sickness Syndrome because I would hate every single second book for this reason.
I didn’t see this love triangle coming for this book, but alas, it was there. And yes, it was the most pointless thing I ever read. Honestly. I feel like it was only created for the sake of creating tension with Audrey Rose and Thomas because there wasn’t a point to it otherwise. There was a lot of other ways that the author could have explored Audrey Rose feeling trapped by marriage, but instead we have a love triangle with a guy whose name I can’t even pronounce.
I recently have been getting better with love triangles – even though I still really can’t stand them – but again, this was just completely unnecessary. We all know and love Thomas Cresswell. We know he’s end game. We know the depth and magic that is the sarcastic, arrogant man who I find to be a dashing Sherlock with magical sounding hair. Audrey Rose and him have had a fiery, dynamic relationship that has been a favorite ship of mine in YA. If we are in deep with Cresswell and know he’s end game, then what’s the point?
Okay, I realized, maybe this other love interest will be intriguing at least? Even though I was peeved about the existence of him in general, I tried to give him a try. Instead, he was lacking in so many ways. He felt like a shade of Thomas – he did not have a presence, he was annoying, he was far too assuming and imposing, and he was just plain boring. He was supposed to be a ringmaster and instead, this girl would be snoozing at his carnival. I honestly would have preferred if Mrs. Harvey was the love interest because she was a lady I could get behind. He was just…there. And I mean, no really, he was CONSTANTLY there. I would blink, and he would be there, while Thomas would be off trying to do things and Mep-whatever was just wandering around.
I was extremely frustrated. I just wanted Audrey Rose and Thomas off having witty banter and solving cases, and then there was this. All. 400. pages. of. it. It was so tiresome.
I thought at least the dynamic of the carnival would make up for the drama of this pointlessness, but it didn’t vibe as much as I wanted. I felt nothing for the rest of the carnival performers, and I struggled to keep them all straight. No one stood out, and they were all just…there. They felt like one big mass. Maniscalco did do quite well with the setting in parts, and there were quite a few moments that I just sat there, staring at the page dreaming up the world that she created with its beauty. She forever can create a wonderful mood and atmosphere that I will vibe with. Some of the descriptions did kind of get to be a little too much, and I did skim. But for the most point, I did love the setting and the writing like normal.
The mystery was intriguing in the beginning, but I felt like it really kind of fell apart. I think it got lost in the carnival and Meps dude, and I kind of forgot sometime we were looking for a murderer. I didn’t have the same investment as the rest of the novels, but when they would pop up, it was quite interesting. I wanted more focus on it, because I kept getting drawn out of it.
Audrey Rose also didn’t feel like herself to me??? I felt like she made a lot of questionable decisions that I didn’t feel like fit with her characterization. When she was killing it in the murder mystery parts, yes, she was total badass Audrey Rose. But everything else felt like she was a new character that I didn’t understand nor like.
Yes, there were parts that I did really enjoy. I felt like Thomas Cresswell really had a journey from book 2 to book 3. I had a few issues with him in book 2, but I was in total love again with him in this one. He was so much brilliance. He is such a respective, caring love interest and really brings the fiery dynamic to a romance. In a time where women were seen as less, he vows to never make Audrey Rose feel caged and wants her to have her freedom before all else. Plus, that wit, that flirt, that charm was killer. The banter that Audrey Rose and him have, plus his fascinating observations were fantastic.
Mrs. Harvey was a jem, and I need alllllllllll the books about her.
WE ARE ENTERING THE OFFICIAL SPOILER ZONE:
Okay, and what was with that ending?????? I thought with the second to the last chapter, we would have to wait for book 4 to sort things out since Audrey Rose wasn’t taking accountability for her actions and she wasn’t dealing with anything, and then all of a sudden, in the Epilogue, Thomas just randomly appears again and he’s like, yo, here’s this cane, I love you forever, be mine???? And then they were just like, kk, we cool??? But what happened to Audrey Rose’s apology or explanation or like, anything? Where was Thomas asking for explanations or anything? If something that large had passed between me and loved one, there would need to be a lot more explanation to figure out what had gone wrong and getting everything out in the open. Audrey Rose messed up a lot, I thought, and it seemed like it allllllllllllllll got brushed aside so we could have a nice, neat ending.
And also, Audrey Rose had to be dying before she realized Cresswell was the answer??? Like, THAT was the big revelation? Hmmm, kk.
WE ARE NOW EXITING THE DANGER ZONE. I REPEAT, WE ARE NOW EXITING THE DANGER ZONE.
Obviously, you can see I went a bit overboard with this one (pun in and unintended). I was just so frustrated with the changes that were made in this story from the dynamic and I feel like it was such a weird addition to a pretty good series. There were some great parts such as Thomas Cresswell, our original cast of side characters, the moments between Thomas and Audrey Rose, and Maniscalco’s mood writing yet again. I just felt like we strayed from the things that made this series great, and there was so much fire in my soul about it. I’m still going to read the fourth and final book, and hopefully I’ll be far less salty. Two crowns and a Cinderella rating.
What do you think? Have your anticipated reads failed you lately? What did you end up thinking of this one? What do you think about love triangles? Let’s discuss in the comments below!