Monday 7 March 2022

Book Review: The Carnival of Ash by Tom Beckerlegge (Alternate History-Fantasy)

Title: The Carnival of Ash
Author: Tom Beckerlegge
Publisher: Rebellion - Solaris
Publication Date: 15 March 2022
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Alternate History-Fantasy
Source: ARC via NetGalley

An extravagant, lyrical fantasy about a city of poets and librarians. A city that never was.

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…


The Carnival of Ash is a book I fear will confuse readers due to mislabelling. The blurb pegs it as a 'lyrical fantasy'; however, there are no real 'fantasy' elements in the piece. In fact, it would be far better described as an alternate-history tale. Readers approaching this piece expecting a standard fantasy story will likely be disappointed. But if you pick it up with the correct expectations, there is still plenty to enjoy here.

I confess the book bewildered me a little at first, as we jumped from character to character and I wasn't sure where things were heading. However, as the story progressed, all the threads began to weave together and I was able to settle back and enjoy the action. The characters were all well drawn and memorable, and I liked the interesting take on history the book presented, not least because a city focused on books and words is sure to appeal to an avid reader. The prose was perhaps a tad verbose at times, but I got the impression that was intentional, to reflect the setting and characters. Overall, I would say it was an enjoyable read and a book I am glad I had the opportunity to experience, since it was such an original tale, but I don't see it being a story I will want to go back to again and again. As such, I am giving it 3.5 stars, which I will round up to a four rather than down to a three.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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