Review – Carousel Sun (Archers Beach #2) by Sharon Lee


Publisher: Baen
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: eARC from NetGalley

When magic meets mundane, sparks fly: these are exciting times in Archers Beach, Maine! A unprecedented Early Season has united townies and carnies in an effort to expand into a twelve-month resort, recapturing the town’s former glory.

Kate Archer, owner-operator of the vintage wooden carousel, is caught up in the excitement—and is quite possibly the cause of it. Because Kate leads a double life, as carny, and as Guardian of the land. Her recent return to the home she had forsaken has changed the town’s luck—for the better—and energized the trenvay—earth and water spirits who are as much citizens of the Beach as their mundane counterparts.

But the town’s new energy isn’t the only change afoot. Joe Nemeier, the local drug lord, whose previous magical consultant was vanquished by Kate, has acquired a new ally—and this one plays with fire.

*blurb from Goodreads

I picked up Carousel Tides (Archers Beach #1) in preparation for reading this second installment to the series. I really enjoyed that first book and looked forward to the continuation of the story in Carousel Sun. I like being able to go right on to the next book without having to wait. As I got into Carousel Sun, I wasn’t sure I was reading the same series. The first book had a sense of constant motion and mystery. This second book meandered along at a leisurely pace. I grew impatient waiting for this story to develop into something. I really wasn’t sure that any particular plot would develop until around the 80% mark.

As a result, I couldn’t help but feel that the narrative followed the wrong story down the rabbit hole. So many interesting things kept happening off-page. Joe Nemeier is the Big Bad, but we don’t get to know him at all. He’s an off-page spectre that occasionally sends his goons into town to rough-up the townsfolk. The “authorities” are after Joe Nemeier, but the narrative only refers to the action through newspaper headlines that the main characters are never involved with. As for the “new ally” that Joe hooks up with, she doesn’t do anything and her tie-in to the overall story feels loose. As a result, there is no tension, no drama, no mystery and no action having to do with Joe at all–which makes the blurb copy rather misleading. Joe’s storyline gets wrapped up without ever involving the reader in the actual details, nor does it seem to have much point to the story itself. As for the story’s actual climax, it fell flat due to the lack of any build-up surrounding that particular plot point. It just seemed so random–although it definitely enlivened the story. But it didn’t develop until the last 20% of the story, and it seemed yet another example of a book that didn’t quite know what its story was actually supposed to be.

Also, the storyline of Kate’s grandmother and mother, which took a backseat in the first book, never developed into anything in this story either. Considering what Kate’s grandmother achieved in book one (again, all of it happening off-page) and the dramatic way in which she entered the story at the end of the first book, I just thought there’d be some tie-in to their story in book two. Instead, they continued to play a very passive and mostly off-page role in Carousel Sun with neither of their characters being developed.

You might think all that meant I didn’t enjoy the second book, which isn’t entirely accurate. I did, in the end, settle in and just let the book be what it was without expectation. This installment is more of a slice-of-life story where Kate settles into town life and her role as Guardian of the Land, caretaker of the carousel, and Gatekeeper. We are presented primarily with scenes of Kate moving about her day and completing her duties. As with the first book, I continued to appreciate Lee’s fluid writing style and cadence–although these elements felt stronger in the first book. The worldbuilding is great and the town of Archers Beach is a rich environment to develop interesting characters and relationships. I liked the connection to the land that the trenvay maintained and how the state of the land was directly tied to the health of the trenvay and vice versa.

Kate and Borgan are clearly the strongest elements of this story–although Borgan is largely absent for reasons that are too spoilery. Their relationship has a sweetness with a touch of old fashioned courtship to it that I find quite touching. It was fun to watch them navigate the newness of their relationship and define what they meant to each other. They live in a world where the simple gesture of inviting someone into their personal space holds great meaning. Lee developed a specific voice unique to each character, and I particularly liked Borgan’s pattern of speaking.

Although we don’t get much insight into Kate’s grandmother or mother, we do get some great secondary characters in Mr. Ignat, Peggy Marr, and Felsic. Mr. Ignat has such a lovely way about him, and his gentle nature is a pleasure to spend time with. I enjoyed watching Peggy, as a human new to Archers Beach, get indoctrinated into the world of the fey. Felsic is a curiosity, and I look forward to what the future might hold for him/her. The rest of the town members are equally charming and help to bring depth to the whole story.

The writing style, the worldbuilding, the town, and the main characters of Kate and Borgan put this book in solid B-country, but the feeling that the plot kept missing the mark really hurt my overall enjoyment of this book. Sadly, I give Carousel Sun a C+ however, I will be looking for the next installment with a hope that we get a cohesive plot that involves all the main characters in more prominent roles relative to the action of the storyline.

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