Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .
Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.
Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Released: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Link to buy book here.
Thank you so much Hachette Australia for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! This in no way impacts my opinion in this review.
The beginning of this book hooked me with its gorgeous map, its beautiful cover, and the letters that Scarlett wrote. And that first line: It took seven years to get the letter right. This book sucked me in with its intriguing premise. But after reading from Scarlett’s naive perspective, the narrative grew a little tiresome.
The writing itself was beautiful, and the way Scarlett’s emotions were described in colour? That was so unique and gorgeous, but at some points the writing was a little bit too flowery for me. I loved reading the descriptions of Caraval and its environment and mystical surroundings, that was very atmospheric, but Scarlett’s voice just ended up annoying me for a lot of this book (unfortunately), even if I did enjoy the world she was experiencing. I just didn’t necessarily enjoy her perspective.
I was also crinkling my nose at Julian and was quite suspicious of his manipulation. I mean he’s pretty, but he was also coming across as a jerk. Just cos you’re pretty it doesn’t mean I’ll trust you. Even …though… Scarlett… did. Sigh. I think Julian’s character didn’t sit right with me because I didn’t understand his motivation. He was mysterious though so I can understand why other readers were intrigued by him. And I can certainly see a certain appeal to him as the book gets closer to the end, but I wasn’t sold from the get-go, sadly.
The plot felt a little slow for me, it was very much just Scarlett coming to terms with fear, trying to find her sister Tella, and puzzle out who the mysterious Legend was. And also to figure out her attraction to Julian. She seemed to make all the wrong choices.
And that ending. I was intrigued, for sure! And at some times confused, horrified, and surprised! The heartbreak, the plot twists, the stringing along; I enjoyed it, but also some of the drama was a bit unnecessary. Pro tip: if you stop shouting hysterically and start talking normally, people may listen to you.
Overall, I didn’t feel empowered reading from Scarlett’s perspective (which is completely fine, I just don’t think this book was for me). I can be quite picky with YA fantasy, and unfortunately this one didn’t hit the high note that all its hype promised. Despite Scarlett making mistakes, she didn’t entirely learn from them, she just seemed to remain naive which frustrated me. She made one or two independent decisions and ultimately did drive herself to keep going, but she did most of those things because of attraction or fear.
I really wanted to love this book, but unfortunately, despite how gorgeous it is, I did not. I was going to give it a 3 stars but I realised I periodically checked what page I was on to see when I would finish it and that’s not a sign of a book that’s being enjoyed. There was hype, I had high hopes, but unfortunately this wasn’t for me at all.
2.75 / 5 stars
Just a quick trigger warning: this book did have an abusive father in it, as well as a suicide.
Have you read Caraval? Did you rate it higher than me? Did you love Julian, Scarlett, Tella and the world of Caraval? Let me know in the comments!