2017 · book review

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Series: Book #1 of Caraval
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars
Book provided by publisher for an honest review

Synopsis: 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.

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”

There is something about this book that is enchanting. Stephanie Garber brings you into this world where almost anything can happen and you feel drawn by it. I often hear this book being compared to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern due to the traveling magical circus atmosphere. But what intrigued me about reading Caraval is that oftentimes it didn’t feel like a circus in the traditional sense. Where night becomes day and where secrets are traded as often for favors, Caraval leaves you transfixed in a state of awe and apprehension. With our story being set on an enchanted island , it gave me more so an amusement park vibe, erring on the creepy side. It’s the juxtaposition between the whimsical and the darkness of the atmosphere that Garber pulls off so well. Most of the time when a twist was thrown into the book I couldn’t guess it right until it happened, which I really enjoyed.

Though a slight let down of this book were the characters. It’s not that I disliked them, it is just that I expected to love them more a lot more than I did. At times I was more wrapped up in what was actually going on with the plot than what was occurring to the characters. I really enjoyed our main character Scarlett, there was just something keeping me from fully loving her. But what I appreciated was her relationship with her sister Tella. It’s not often in books you get to see supportive sibling relationships and I loved how much me as the reader could see how much Scarlett cared for her sister and vice versa. And you are able to see Scarlett go through a lot of self discovery with her short time on the island. We also get introduced to Julian. I actually ended up liking Julian a lot more towards the end than initially. For me, I felt the constant pull of like and dislike, but his character ultimately redeem himself for me by the end of the novel.

What I didn’t particularly love was the ending, I feel that Garber was creating such great build up and the end just became sort of anti-climatic and sort of confusing to me. But I didn’t know that this was not a standalone book, so I’m looking forward to see how things evolve and progress in her next novel. I definitely recommend this if you’re an avid lover the young adult fantasy and looking for something to mess with your mind, because I can promise one thing that this book definitely will.

—Rebecca ☾


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