Today I’m pleased to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for The Carnival of Ash an interesting alternative historical novel which turned out very different from what I had expected.  You can see more about the book, the author and my review below, but first I’d like to thank The Write Reads and the publisher for a chance to read this book and be a part of the tour. 🙂  Now let’s see what I thought of this…

Title: The Carnival of Ash
Author: Tom Beckerlegge
Publisher: Solaris (Reebelllion Publishing)
Genre: Historical fiction-alternative
Book format: Pre-publication proof copy
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  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…

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is an interesting book which turned out very different from what I first thought it would be.  Carlo Mazzoni has recently entered the city of Cadenza hoping to get recognition for his poem and restore his family’s name.  However Carlo has come to Cadenza at a most unfortunate time, after the death of its much loved ruler, and without a new poet to lead the City of Words, is Cadenza destined to fall?

‘The Carnival of Ash’ is written not like a large novel with chapters, but like twelve short stories which each have their own conclusion and featuring different characters, but which all slowly move the story of what happens in the city of Cadenza forward.  The first story, or Canto, shows us the poet Carlo as he is in despair after being rejected for his poem.  I have to admit to really enjoying this first story, it’s a great opening to the book, especially the way we first see the character of Carlo as he’s met by Ercole.  The first Canto has its conclusion, which is quite funny, and then the second begins, following a different story with what seems to be no initial connection with the first canto other than one character briefly mentioned in the first story being the main character in the second.

It takes time to see how the stories and characters are all connected and I have to say that I started finding it hard to keep reading the book as I just wasn’t sure where it was going.  I am glad I persevered though as some of the later stories become much more interesting and shocking especially when we find out more about some recurring characters.

Although each Canto is its own story they do all lead the main tale of Candenza forward across the course of months towards an interesting and dramatic overall ending for the whole city.  I won’t reveal what happens but the last Canto, titled ‘The Carnival of Ash’ is different from the others and often switches viewpoint between the different characters we’ve met previously.  The ending is good, what happens is shocking but also inevitable and I like what happens to some of the characters.  The story has a good ending but I did feel a little lost at times with certain passages needing a brief re-read as I did find myself occasionally wondering what I’d just read.

The book is less fantasy and more historical fiction about a fictional city in Italy.  There are some brief fantasy elements in the story too but it’s not really a fantasy tale as the publisher originally marketed it to be.  The book has a lot of twists and shocking moments which are good, but at the same time this book really does have some dark parts to it that even I feel were quite dark for me to read.  There is violence with some pretty gruesome descriptions in some parts to some violent acts committed as well as mentions of abuse and sex which is described in quite a crude and graphic way.  I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for the book to be so dark given the description and cover, but the darker content becomes more understandable when you realise that the city of Cadenza is a city filled with darkness and sin which is acknowledged later in the story.  Once I realised that this is part of the storytelling it was easier to read and made more sense.  There is also occasional uses of the s and f swear words.

Overall I don’t know quite what to think about this book.  In some ways I really enjoyed it and found myself compelled to keep reading it especially towards the end.  At other times I really felt unsure and even wanted to put it down permanently (Did Not Finishing it) as some of the stuff was just really crude and didn’t make that much sense to me especially the obsession with sex.  But overall after reading it I did like the story.  I’m not sure I would have picked it up had I known how graphic and dark the content is, or at least I would prefer a warning of it as the description really isn’t what the book ends up being.  But overall I do think it’s a compelling read once you get into it.  The first canto is good and I loved the canto titled  ‘The Siege of Caterina’ especially; so in the end I’m going to give this a middling 3 strawberries as I’m just not sure how much I liked this book.

Buy the Book

The Carnival of Ash book cover

Buy from publisher’s website    Buy from Amazon UK    Buy from Amazon US

About the Author

Tom Beckerlegge Author Pic

Tom Beckerlegge grew up in the northwest of England in a house filled with books. Writing as Tom Becker, he won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with his debut novel; The Carnival of Ash is his first adult book. He lives in Enfield with his wife and young son.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my stop on the blog tour for this interesting and different book.  Please do check out the other stops on the tour and let me know whether you’ve red this book and what you thought of it if you did? 🙂


What do you think of this book?  Do you like alternative historical fiction?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂