Author: Stephanie Garber
Rating: 2/5 stars
Release date: January 31st 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Remember, it’s only a game…
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.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
What a disappointing book. I was looking forward to the magical, The Night Circus – esque debut that everyone seems to be talking about, but all I got were multiple plot holes, poor world-building and a serious lack of character depth. The characters are constantly running in and out of some dodgy tunnel, which really limits the world of Caraval to the readers. The pacing was way too sluggish because it was difficult to follow the plot. Everything and anything happens out of nowhere and even though it is all intended to be magical depictions of Caraval, it came off weird and confusing. Specifically the written prose of this book. All the metaphors and descriptive language were a little exaggerated to me and it feels like the author is just using pretty words to somehow give off a whimsical, eccentric vibe. But it didn’t work. It just came off as pretentious. Way too pretentious.
So the characters are thrust into Caraval and our main protagonist has no idea of Caraval, except it’s supposed to be a magical adventure. We follow her as she is on a constant debate with herself, figuring how to work things out herself in a place she is completely clueless of. Her companion and the past also contributes little to the world-building. The book lacked the foundation of the world-building needed for the readers to grasp on, so we’re just left to blindly go with the flow, questioning everything that occurs to our main protagonist.
The only aspect of the book that was tolerable and interesting enough to read about was Julian. He was a mysterious oddball. But even then I couldn’t root for the romance between him Scarlet. It had no build up and pretty much came out of nowhere. The romance consisted of Julian constantly showcasing his abs and smirking excessively, in which Scarlet contributes to the relationship by blushing and inevitably finding the need to get intimate with him. Their friendship wasn’t even established to start with. They’ve only known of each other’s existence barely a week in and they’re already doing the unspeakable. The romance could have been unpacked further (and at a much slower pace), but the author took things off way too quickly, which made the supposedly steamy, swoon-worthy moments stale and cringeworthy.
Overall, the plot-twist, world building and ending were unsatisfactory. Caraval in a nutshell was just anti-climactic. It was only towards the end did we learn more about Caraval than we did throughout the whole progression of the story. But at least the ending, though anti-climactic, gave me the extra push needed to want to continue on reading the sequel, which is saying something since halfway through Caraval I was already debating on whether or not I would DNF the book. But since we know a bit more about Caraval and its quirks, I feel like I’ll be able to follow Legendary better.
Nonetheless, I expected much more from this book. I wanted to like it so bad but sadly I couldn’t. Not when the hype and the blurb promised so much but presented so little. I feel a little bit cheated on, not going to lie.
But anyways, I’d still give the sequel a go. Just, this time, I won’t be expecting very much from it anymore.