Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 407
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.
Let me start by saying I waiting so long to read this book because I wanted to wait until the hype died down. I was scared to read this book and be let down because so many people seemed to love this book, calling it magical, mind-blowing, enchanting blah, blah, blah. Even some of my favorite authors left stellar reviews on the back of the book, so the book must be something special, right?
I’m sad to say that I was let down. The hype definitely got to this book, and not in a good way. This book was being compared to The Night Circus, which to me, is a difficult book to be compared to. If a book is being compared to The Night Circus, it better blow my socks off and rock my world because The Night Circus is my holy grail of all YA fantasy books.
I didn’t want the hype to get to me – which is why I waited to long to read it, as I stated above – and so I lowered my expectations before reading. If I hadn’t done so, I probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it as much as I admittedly did. I’m saying that I enjoyed this book but yet just a paragraph ago I was complaining about how it has no right to be compared to The Night Circus. You, my friend, must be a very confused individual, or am I? I think a reasonable word we can agree on with this book is confused.
Before I delve into why I didn’t like this book (and why I did) this review is expected to be a lengthy one, but I promised no spoilers in the title and I’ll keep my word.
“Legend likes to play twisted games with people, and one of his favorites is making girls fall in love with him.”
First, let’s get the nasty stuff out of the way, shall we? The number one thing I hated about this book would have to be, no question, the romance. I know, I know, this book had romance as a sub-genre and there was romance mentioned in the synopsis, but there was also sisterhood mentioned.
Let me just say first and foremost that if I had Scarlett or Tella as my sister I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life with Legend. I’m being honest here. A lot of people are saying how they’re a great representation of sisters and that their bond is unbreakable and all that stuff, while I’m just sitting here wondering what book they read. Let me read the book you read!
Scarlett and Tella fight like sisters would and they claim to be loyal to one another but there are so many occasions in this book where they choose a guy over their sister. I’m sorry, but isn’t the code supposed to be sisters before misters?
Not only that but the romance in this book was one of the most cringe-worthy romances I’ve ever read. It was insta-love at it’s worst, not to mention she fell in love with the guy when she was supposed to be looking for her sister! So many events wouldn’t have unfolded – bad ones that hurt everyone, might I add – if she had just stayed true to her ‘main’ goal of finding her sister.
Not only did the character relationships absolutely suck, but so did the characters themselves. The only character I found remotely interesting was Legend. Scarlett was such a boring heroine who did absolutely nothing the entire story. Read this book and tell me one heroic thing she did (I mean, I can think of maybe one, but this is a 400 page book and she’s the main character!)
Tella isn’t much better, and don’t even get me started on the lackluster eye candy that is Julian. I saw a review on Goodreads where the person called this a Lunar Chronicles rip-off and now I can see where she’s coming from. Scarlett is the most obvious ‘rip-off’ but then Julian is so clearly supposed to be some sort of faux copycat of Thorne. You can’t deny that, I mean c’mon.
Scarlett and her sister were described as so many different things throughout this story – smart, brave, etc. – yet they showed none of these qualities at all. They were cardboard cut-outs of characters that they were supposed to be. I don’t even want to talk about Julian because that character was just a failure on the author’s part.
Not only did the characters fall flat, but so did the story itself. This book promised magic and spectacular performances but it all felt bland to me. There was not one single performance in this entire book. Not. Even. One. Why the heck do you write a book inspired by carnivals and that revolves around magical performers without including an actual performance by said performers?
“Not quite sure how far she’s already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.”
I think it’s time for me to talk about what I liked about this book because there are some things I enjoyed. One of those things was the writing.
Sometimes the writing in this book did drive me a bit crazy because it certainly isn’t for everybody. Stephanie Garber has a very flowery writing style where she tends to describe the scent of the air – oftentimes using words such as ‘sugar’ and ‘sweet’ – and the main character Scarlett describes emotions with colors. I’m not sure if that’s because her name is a color or what, but I did find it odd at times.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some beautiful lines in this book that made me read them more than once to savor their beauty, but sometimes I think Garber went a bit overboard. It is her first novel, so it’s understandable.
Another thing I liked about this book was the concept. The concept was an excellent one, even if the execution wasn’t the best. I did enjoy the world she created, I just wish I was able to be completely sucked into the world of Caraval. Sadly, I wasn’t. This world that she created had so much promise, but she made the common mistake of telling instead of showing.
To wrap up this review I’d like to say that I did read this book quite fast – 3-5 sittings – and there is potential for the sequel to be great. I will be picking up the second book once it comes out sometime in 2018. I won’t expect too much from it, but I do hope that it’ll fix and improve upon the problems I found in this book.
Rating: 3 stars
Overall, this book was an enjoyable read but the characters and world fell flat. I’m crossing my fingers that the next book will be an improvement.