Review: “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

If you’re in the YA book community, and haven’t heard of this book, I’d be surprised! I actually pre-ordered this book when it released back in January and it sat on my shelf until… Well, technically it still sat on my shelf because I listened to this via audiobook. HAHA! 😂

Anywho, I heard mixed reviews about it, and considering this book is very hyped, I went into it with trepidation. But I’m glad to say that I did enjoy it, though I did have a few problems with it.

caravalTitle: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release date: January 31, 2017
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 407 pages (U.S. hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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.”

three and a half starsMy Thoughts

If you’ve listened The Lunar Chronicles, this audiobook is narrator by the same voice actor, Rebecca Soler. So initially, it was hard for me to disassociate that series and immerse myself in Caraval (especially since there’s are two characters with the same name). However, I really enjoy Rebecca as a narrator, so it wasn’t too much of a problem.

Here’s what I liked about the book: I loved the mystery and intrigue of Caraval, especially Scarlett’s interest. In my head, I thought of what most people think of when it hear something like this: a carnival, with its myriad of actors and performances, silly games, and the idea of leaving reality behind and become enchanted in the magic and wonder of Caraval. Did I get that? Only slightly. I will say up front that the last few chapters really saved it for me because I found Scarlett’s reactions quite similar to what mine would have been if I were in her situation. Crazy!

I also really liked Tella has a character. Granted, I liked Scarlett as well. I’ve read reviews where people think she’s a whiny character, but I didn’t think she was. She asks a lot of questions and for good reason. She’s curious but also apprehensive about what happens when she’s at Caraval–also for good reason. The lines between reality and imaginary are incredibly blurred! (Making the ending all the more of a shocker to me, haha.) However, with the way the book ended, and the second book, Legendary, following Tella around, I’m excited to read it.

However, I will say that Scarlett and Tella’s father deserved everything he had coming to him. He was both physically and verbally abusive to his daughters and claimed he was trying to “protect” them. Pft, I’m not buying it! There’s no reason to treat your own flesh and blood like that.

Another part that really bothered me was how quickly Scarlett and Julian’s (the mysterious sailor) relationship quickened. I had to remember that the book takes place over the course of a few days, and while these two characters were often together and the circumstances they were placed under called for quite a bit of trust and honesty, it still didn’t settle in me well. It also seemed liked Scarlett was quite innocent in a lot of ways but especially sexually, and I felt like a lot of what happened to her and her interaction with young men in general while at Caraval was bit of an awakening for her.

The writing was also quite enchanting as well. Garber has a real flair for description, down to details of dresses, scenery, and the overall ambiance of Caraval. It was quite lovely to forget your worries for a few days and play at Caraval…but not without consequences. While I’m not overly in love with this book and it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, I still enjoyed it and look forward to reading the sequel.

You can purchase this book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BookDepository (U.K. edition), IndieBound, and other major booksellers. Legendary, book 2 in the series, is expected to release on May 29, 2018, and is already available to pre-order. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Review: “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

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