Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date Published: 31 January
Rating: 4 stars
I received Caraval in the March Book Case box and was pretty amped to dive into it. There was quite some hype surrounding the release of this novel and loads of comparisons to The Nights Circus. This has become a trend in publishing in the past few years, especially when it comes to Young Adult Fiction. The best way to guarantee sales is to compare a fandom favourite and that can only go one of two ways. For that reason I am glad that I am yet to read The Night Circus. I’ve heard only great things about The Night Circus and I know that if I’d read it I would have constantly been comparing Caraval to . Thankfully I went into this with minimal expectations besides craving a magical and unique read.
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.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
Spoiler Free Review:
Going into this novel I didn’t know expect and was honestly impressed by the world of Caraval. While this book was marketed as a circus-like experience, I found that the concept of Caraval was more like an elaborate magical theatre performance than a circus. That being said, the concept was very unique and intriguing. I particularly enjoyed the fact that you never knew what was real and what was a performance.
I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of the main character Scarlett. She was a very flat character and was naive and annoying most of the time. I personally think that there wasn’t much character development on Scarlett’s behalf. Yes, the experience of Caraval forced Scarlett to do things that she may never have thought she was capable of doing but by the end of the novel she was basically the same Scarlett we met on page one.
I was also not very convinced by the “sisterly bond” between Tess and Scarlett. We literally see the two of them interact once before they are separated at Caraval. There just wasn’t adequate time to convince the reader that a solid bond existed between these two sister, and this in turn, made the whole premise of the novel as well as the plot twist, which relies heavily on this bond, rather weak.
On the other hand, what captivated me was the world and the vivid imagery Garber painted with her prose, along with the spontaneous magical system that seemed to rely on belief and hope more than anything else.
Julian, Dante and Aiko also contributed tremendously to my enjoyment of the novel. They were very interesting characters that I wish Garber had explored more indepthly. Hopefully we’ll get to learn more about them in the sequel.
Overall, I feel like this novel and this concept had so much potential to be an indepth and quirky fantastical novel, but it just about missed the mark, yet it was still an fun and interesting read. A solid four stars for enjoyment and Julian!
Let me know what you thought of this novel in the comments below.