After seeing so much hype for ‘Caraval’ within the book community, I was excited to get my hands on a copy and delve into the mysterious and magical world Stephanie Garber creates. While ‘Caraval’ is indeed magical and mysterious, the characters and story fell short and kept this book from being a fantastic read.
Author: Stephanie Garber
Date published: January 31st 2017
Page Count: 401
Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.
While I enjoyed ‘Caraval’ as a whole, it missed the mark on some aspects which was what kept it from being a great book. I was expecting a lot from this story as it was incredibly hyped within the book community. The story was interesting and while I did enjoy the Caraval experience, the characters fell flat and the romance left something to be desired.
‘Caraval’ follows Scarlet and Tella, two young girls under the control of an overbearing and abusive father. Scarlet yearns to escape from their small Island and dreams of going to one of the Famous Caravals hosted by Legend. After multiple attempts of escape failed, Scarlet’s one chance of freedom is by marrying an unknown Count who has been courting her. Days before her wedding, she receives invitations to the next Caraval, and with her sister and a sailor Julian they leave the island for the enchanting island that it is set on. However, it is not exactly what Scarlet was expecting-with the island full of strange people and whispers of people losing themselves in the ‘Caraval’ even though it is touted as only a game. When it is revealed that Tella is the subject of the game, Scarlet and Julian have to work together to solve the clues and leave the game in one piece.
Firstly I must commend the writing. I thought it was well written and the imagery and descriptive language used really set the atmosphere and created the mystical and magical setting of the Caraval. Garber builds up to some really great twists and conflicts and I enjoyed slowly piecing together the puzzle of what exactly happens at the Caraval. Once you think you understood what happened, it is completely turned on its head as new information and characters come into the fray. The story for the most part of the book was sound all the way until the end-where it had to wrap up so many loose ends. The ending just became unbelievable as all of the problems and plot lines fell too perfectly into place. Funny and silly as that may sound, it made the conclusion lose impact and crossed the line between ‘happy ending’ and ‘happy ending where everything is perfect and nothing is out of place.’
Speaking of the characters-they fell flat for me. Scarlet and Tella felt so two dimensional. We only get glimpses of who they as people and their development through the story was slow and unimpactful. While Scarlet does have some shining moments, like standing up to her abusive father and sacrificing everything to save her sister, it is the opposite with Tella. She manipulates her sisters love for her into a twisted game and the ending felt wrong for what was shaping up to be an enchanting story.
There was more romance in ‘Caraval’ then I was expecting, similar to ‘Passenger’ (reviewed here). The romance scenes themselves were well written and I did develop a soft spot for Julian. However, it was one of those ‘perfect romances’ where they fall in love over a couple days and some stressful events. There were no deep and meaningful conversations about their past or feelings, just secrets. Yes they are under a time crunch to solve the puzzle and this is Scarlet’s first meaningful relationship with any boy, but to grow their relationship to the depth and intensity it is in the book in a way diminished the meaning of their relationship.
While the main bulk of the story was somewhat interesting, the ending really let this book down. With such a fantastic plot twist, the loose ends were wrapped up too quickly and too perfectly which made the story itself loose impact. There were some minor problems I had with some of the characters and their relationships, but I really enjoyed the world of Caraval and the wonderful writing and imagery that Stephanie Garber features in this book. I feel like I am incredibly harsh in this review, but I know that for me, it could have been such an amazing book.