by Amanda Hocking
Published on January 3, 2017 by St. Martin's Griffin
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…
Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.
When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.
But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.
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If I had to describe this book is one word, it would be disappointing. Not bad, not great, just… nothing like what I expected or hoped for. This isn’t my first time reading Hocking’s work. I enjoyed her Trylle books when I was younger (and maybe that was why, I’m not sure as it’s been a while) but all the circus/carnival-y goodness and captivating mystery I hoped for in Freeks wasn’t there.
Mara is part of a traveling sideshow that’s been invited to a small town to perform for a week. Since they’re broke, they don’t have many options so despite getting this “bad feeling” from the area they go anyway and set up shop. Cue mysterious attacks and a hot boy with a way-too-obvious secret who immediately falls for Mara.
Initially, my biggest problems sat with the writing itself. Descriptions are frequently repeated. Trust me, I get that Gabe’s eyes have a wicked gleam to them. I don’t need to hear it every time Mara sees him. The writing also came off as written for a younger audience. Which is fine, but also the book contains some explicit content later on which would NOT be suited for that same audience…
In general, the story just didn’t hook me. My initial draw was the carnival theme. Some of my favorite books (The Night Circus, Caraval) have a strong magical circus vibe and that’s what I wanted from Freeks. Instead, I found the insta-attraction between Mara and Gabe took over and the book became more about their romance than the mystery originally advertised in the synopsis.
There’s all this talk of supernatural skills throughout the first half of the book but it wasn’t until near the end that any of it even played a role. And the story itself was predictable at best. Sometimes I play a game of “how much can I guess correctly” and this time around, I won in every instance except perhaps the specific names. This is a story I’ve read before, many times over. A take on a paranormal romance that reads more like a series opener than a standalone with more cliches than I can count. Hell, even Gabe’s name is a bit predictable (I won’t say why specifically to avoid spoilers but let’s just say I’ve seen it used for this at least a handful of times, enough to recognize — and guess right).
As for the rest of the book…well to start, it’s set in the 1980’s. I don’t think this really made an impact other than the author felt the need to continually remind us with details here and there. A lot of little details, references, things that even if I hadn’t been raised by parents who spoke a lot about that decade, I would’ve known. Unnecessary because I don’t think any of that really played a big role in the story as anything other than filler.
Freeks is about half fluff and the other plot. Everything felt drawn out, like when you’re writing a paper for school and there’s a word count minimum so you put in as many descriptions as you can even if they don’t make sense. And if you noticed yet, I still haven’t really talked about the characters which is odd because I’m all about the characters.
The truth is they didn’t really make an impact. I neither liked nor disliked Mara. She was there. She did her job. She flirted with the local requisite hot guy Gabe, who has this BIG SECRET that if you’re familiar with YA fantasy/paranormal books you’ll figure out pretty quick. But I didn’t really feel anything toward either one of them. And the rest of the cast had their *interesting* talents but again, they just didn’t matter at the end of the story. Maybe if this was the start of a series where their character arcs would get an expansion but for a standalone? Everyone tended to fade into the background.
I think Freeks had good intentions and had a strong backbone buried deep down but it never got the chance to shine. Though I’ve enjoyed her previous books, this one wasn’t for me.