Sunday, November 8, 2020

Book Review: Dollhouse (Dark Carousel #1) by Anya Allyn

Title: Dollhouse
Series: Dark Carousel #1
Author: Anya Allyn
Publication Date: January 10th 2017
Print Length: 311 pages
Genre: Young Adult Supernatural Gothic Horror
A dark presence is collecting girls, deep in the forest. Two girls have vanished, and now a third. Cassie and her friends desperately search the forest for their friend, who went missing on a hike. When they find vintage dolls hanging from strings on branches, they should have turned back.
But they didn't. 

The dolls lead to a crumbling mansion. Beneath the mansion lies a macabre, life-sized dollhouse that is controlled by a terrifying being. In the dollhouse, you must dance until your feet bleed, sit on the toy shelf if you're bad, and if you've been very bad, you are sent to the toy box - a pitch-dark cavern that contains beings beyond nightmares.

And now there is no escape.

I had been in a book funk for awhile, so when someone recommended Dollhouse by Anya Allyn, I thought I'd give it a try. It seemed right up my alley, and luckily, I wasn't disappointed!

I loved the plot of Dollhouse! Cassie, Ethan, Aisha, and Lacey are all friends from school. One day they venture out in the forest. Aisha leaves the group and ventures further into the forest. The three others look for Aisha, but it's like she's vanished. With the cops not being able to find Aisha and Ethan being accused of her disappearance, Lacy, Ethan, and Cassie go back to the forest to look for her. They find a huge mansion and decide to go in it to search for Aisha. However, what they find is a secret passage that leads into a real life dollhouse where the girls are all forced to look like dolls to appease Jessamine, the leader of the dolls and toys. Getting in was easy, but getting out will be the hard part.

The world building was done beautifully. I felt like I was right there beside each character as the plot unfolded as well as the emotions each character would feel. While the book started out slow, it wasn't long before the action quickly picked up, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. There were a couple of times where the pacing became a bit too quick during the action unfolding where I felt a bit lost with what was going on, but the pacing quickly corrected itself. There are a few plot twists that I never saw coming, and there are a few that are semi-predictable. However, I enjoyed everything as well as trying to figure out what was going on. I feel that Dollhouse could be read as a standalone, but as it's a series, it's best to read all the books in the Dark Carousel series if you need one hundred percent closure and more back story.

I loved each and every character featured in Dollhouse. Each character had enough backstory to be fleshed out very well. I believe every character also acted their appropriate age. Cassie was such a strong lead character, and I admired her tenacity to do whatever it took to find a way out. Her loyalty to her friends was noble, and her resolve to not give up was an inspiration. Ethan was another character that had the same traits as Cassie. He wanted to protect the girls and didn't care what would happen to himself. I wouldn't say he was reckless though. Missouri and Philly were my favorite characters even though they weren't the main ones. Missouri wanted to protect everyone, and I loved how much of a mother figure she was to little Philly. Jessamine was an awesome antagonist. I loved reading about her so much, and I also loved trying to figure out her backstory. (The bulk of Jessamine's backstory is featured in the second book of the series, Paper Dolls.) There were times when I actually felt sorry for Jessamine, but she was quite selfish. I would have loved to learn more about how Donovan (the man who lived in the mansion the living dollhouse was in) fits into the whole narrative, but perhaps that will be explained throughout the rest of the series. Another thing I really loved about Dollhouse was that the stuffed animals and the wooden clown came to life and were beyond life sized. I felt that was a pretty awesome (and spooky) touch.

Trigger warnings for Dollhouse include fear, kidnapping, some violence, ghosts, druggings, death, and murder.

Overall, Dollhouse was a fantastic fast-paced read that I didn't want to put down. Once the pacing picks up, it's easy to devour in just one sitting with its fantastic cast of characters and great narrative. I would definitely recommend Dollhouse by Anya Allyn to those aged 14 and older who love to get lost in a spooky well written story.

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