Author: Stephanie Garber
Date Started: August 11
Date Finished: August 14
Format: Hardcover from local library
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
I’ll admit that I was very wary of reading this book. I hadn’t heard the best things about Caraval from my fellow Goodreads friends. As my friend Tanya said in her review ‘It’s not even a book but a bad fanfiction that got published.’ I think that was enough for me to do a serious hard pass. But a few months ago as I was searching the YA book tag on Pinterest and this book kept popping up and I took a closer look at it. From the summary it reminded me of The Night Circus and even though it has been a few years since I’ve read that book, I still liked it. So I decided to give Caraval a try.
And while yes, I do agree that Scarlett is whiny – jeez we get it, you’re trying to save your sister, you do not need to keep saying it every freaking page – there’s actually something quite odd about her. But in a good way. She’s been repressed for years because she felt threatened that her father would hurt her or her sister if they didn’t behave. And at first her whole up tightness thing is so annoying that I wanted to DNF this book really badly, but once she finds her strength – although I personally think for the wrong reasons – it’s actually fun to watch.
I will agree that the world-building was very vague, but I think that has more to do with the fact that Caraval is supposed to be shrouded in mystery so we weren’t really supposed to have too many details. The plot was too convoluted for its own good I think. There were times when I felt that Garber thought – oh hey, it’s getting too predictable, let me throw in another plot twist to throw everyone off – and let me tell you that got annoying fast. It got to the point where I wasn’t even sure what was happening was happening. As for the character of Julian. God damn. I wanted to like him. The ‘bad boy’ who gets teamed up with the ‘good girl,’ and there were a few moments that I wanted to root for their whole relationship, but then when he wound up being a player in the game and not just a player but Legend’s brother? Ugh. I was so done.
Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Look, there were things in this book that I liked, but they weren’t properly explored. I feel like this could have been an AU fanfiction of The Night Circus, and if it had been I would have read it and loved it because it’s a fanfic. But because it is a published book there was just not enough world building and the characters sometimes fell a little flat. Motivation was a big issue and also details. While I appreciated the fact that Scarlett could see color in emotions, that got old fast. I would rather Garber focus on what her characters looked like.
Bookshelf worthy? Save yourself 400 pages and read a fanfic instead.