Ringmaster by Trudi Jaye
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It is also titled Ringmaster's Heir (Dark Carnival #1) in the US.
There are parts of this that are wonderful. Rilla, the title character, is a totally real and likable central character. She is easy to root for, and isn't a princess perfect. The idea of a Carnival and a group of families that are quasi cursed to help Marks is interesting. The magic in the series is well thought out and has rules that are followed. The plot at the beginning is pretty good. Rilla's father has died (has he been murdered?), she faces a challenge to her inheritance as Ringmaster, made more problematic because the Carnival has been dealing with sabotage. The whole sequence with Rilla and the Mark, Kara, as they help each other is wonderful.
The but to this otherwise good book is a few major buts.
The first is that the romance feels entirely forced and as something the writer threw in because she (I presume the Trudi Jaye is a she, apolgizes if he/it/them is the preferred pronoun) thought readers would want it. The hero, Jack, is the son of the man who is challenging Rilla for the Ringmaster role. The Nine, men and one women besides Rilla, who control various aspects of the Carnvial (such as food, games, rides) will vote on it. Jack's father was exiled for 33 years for interfering with a Mark. Part of the forced romance feel is that Jack is really unlikable. At first, it is understandable why he wants to support his father in the quest for Ringmaster title. His father was ill, the return to the Carnival seems to be good for his father - who wouldn't want to help Dad, especially when Jack wants to get back to his job. So, yeah, he's a jerk and maniuplative (he uses a private conversation and its infromation), but you can understand why. It's when his father suffers a relapse and decides that Jack should take his place as challenger that Jack looks even more jerk like (why would he agree, especially when he wasn't raised in the Carnival or fully understands it?). Then Jerk Jack says he is doing it for Rilla's own good because she is sad about her dad. This after they slept together (which felt so forced that you were literally, going really) and after he realizes that Rilla was basically running the Carnival for her father anyway.
What is more, the NIne (even the only woman of the Nine, who is the Foodmaster) are okay with this. AND NOT ONE WOMAN THINKS TO CALL THEM OUT ON THE SEXISM. The closest you get is Missy who hints, hints, at it. By the end of the book,when Rilla has been told by one of the men on the Nine that they love her and that's why they wanted Jack or his dad as Ringmaster because they were worried about her grieving. you want Rilla to shout, "Screw you, you SeXist Bastards and enabling Woman" and walk away.
Instead she becomes co-Ringmaster with Jack who is still a fucking jerk.
This might of been fine if the sexism had at least been addressed or even mentioned, but it's not. THe only reason, at least in times of the world in the book, that the NIne might vote for Jack or his Dad instead of someone who knows the Carnival, is that Rilla has tits and a v-j.
It totally ruined the book. It really did.
And then the reveal is something a reader can figure out about 100 plus pages earlier. There is a third plot point that just feels thrown in.
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