Freeks by Amanda Hocking
Freeks is quite a crazy little number that I enjoyed reading. Set in a travelling sideshow run by Gideon Davorin the crew are a strange bunch that bring together the archetypal images of the bearded lady and the strong man but add a fantasy element with necromancy, pyrokinesis and other strange and wonderful phenomenon. Put basically, the world that exists here is a strange confection of paranormal and darkly creepy mixed up with regular human.
The thing is for me personally, travelling sideshows hold something magical, romantic maybe, and mysterious. They also conjure up images of things that are maybe a little bit scary and it all adds to the allure somehow.
So this particular sideshow moves to Caudry, Louisiana. They’re in trouble. They have no money and they need a gig and Caudry is the only offer on the table. An offer that looks almost suspiciously tempting except that maybe Caudry need something to help generate interest as much as Gideon’s show need money. Perhaps the deal is mutually beneficial to both sides – until, that is, something seems to start stalking people from the sideshow and killing them in very grisly circumstances.
Okay, Freeks has this lovely urban fantasy feel – without the urban. The Sideshow are camped out in a field, they set out their stalls everyday and the setting is written in a great way that really puts you in the middle of the situation and makes it easy to imagine.
In terms of characters, the main one obviously is Mara. I liked Mara, I liked that she gave a bit of insight into her particular life. The constant moving, the lack of attachment to other characters, the longing for more personal space. These things came across really well. I didn’t particularly feel that Mara always acted in the most sensible or safest way and I also felt just a tad more disappointed that she didn’t have a little more about her She seemed to be carried along on the crest of a wave somehow, a participant rather than a player.
Gabe is the love interest. He’s one of those characters that seem casually privileged. He’s always well dressed and has this indifferent sex appeal that he’s unaware of. He also hides secrets and maybe needs to be kept at arms length.
I felt that the instantaneous love between the two was a tad much. I mean, we are literally talking a few days here and the two of them don’t exhibit such a lot of chemistry. Maybe they would have over a longer time frame but this just felt a bit rushed, I thought they both got on okay but I wasn’t quite feeling the love.
In terms of the rest of the characters, I wish that we could have spent more time with them as it felt a little like all the others were just ‘fodder’ for whatever was stalking them. Rose’s mother, Gideon and Roxie had parts that were slightly more integral but still not given enough page time.
The setting. I enjoyed the show-ground. A lot of attention was paid to the mobile homes and we frequently spent time looking at the work that needed to be undertaken around the place. What was lacking a little was a sense of impending doom. Everyone knew that something bad was going to happen, in fact one of the members of the show had already gone missing and yet nobody took it as seriously as I would have expected. They were nestled up to a swamp with tales of terror abounding and a member of their crew gone astray and yet there was a notable lack of fear.
The plot was interesting, not totally gripping, but intriguing nonetheless. Why was the the sideshow staying and in fact what was keeping them there. It was an interesting premise. Personally, I think it could have been kept a bit more simple. It could have revolved more around the supernatural and horrific elements and maybe relied upon more of a gothic feel, in a way it feels slightly like a missed opportunity, like a good way to bring yet another ‘love’ story to the YA arena.
In spite of that I enjoyed the story. The pacing was reasonable, the characters likeable, the story entertaining and the setting intriguing. Put bluntly, it was a fun read with elements of horror. It didn’t quite live up to the horror or gothic expectations that I had but even so was still a good read.
I received a copy via the publisher courtesy of Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.