[ARC Review] Caraval by Stephanie Garber

08:00 Cilla P 2 Comments

"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"

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 31 January 2016


The massive hype around Caraval had me expecting great things out of the book. I'm going to be the black sheep here, and admit that it didn't live up to those expectations. The world of Caraval is enchanting, and I enjoyed exploring it alongside Scarlett. The characters fell flat for me, however.

Caraval, the circus, is promised to be a marvellous, magical place, and it is. I enjoyed the fact that it is whimsically odd, yet there's this rather sinister undercurrent running through it. For instance, the price for a piece of clothing or a drink ranges from a secret to a day of your life. There's something not quite right about the place, and for me that made it more fascinating. Garber's metaphorical writing adds to the atmosphere of the book. I love the way she uses colours and smells to describe emotions and the environments. 

This kind of setting lends itself well to the twisty plot. Up to the final page, I felt that the characters - Scarlett in particular - were constantly on shifting gronds; I had no idea what's real and what isn't. This was kind of a double-edged sword for me. I love a good mystery and so was keen to keep reading. Towards the end, however, I became really annoyed.

I appreciated that our heroine isn't the feisty, headstrong type, as I feel we could do with some more of the careful, reluctant heroes type. However, Scarlett's reluctance combined with the nature of Caraval meant some questions get rehashed a lot. Should she trust Julian, the sailor who became her companion in Caraval? Is Legend, the master of Caraval, good or bad? Look, I'm a terrible decision-maker too, and I know how frustrating it can be for other people to deal with me in those moments. So I was constantly torn between sympathising and being annoyed with her

Perhaps my main let-down about this book is that it suffers from the same thing Frozen did: the story is supposed to be about sisterly love, yet Scarlett spends the majority of the book bonding with a guy. It's unavoidable due to the nature of the plot, but I wish we were shown more of the dynamic and history between the sisters rather than only being told what their relationship was like prior to Caraval. It doesn't help that I didn't like the romance, but that may just be my growing disinclination for the secretive boys who insist they're no good for you!

All in all, Caraval gave me a beautiful but dangerous world, but the characters didn't capture my interests. I would have liked to see more of the sisters interacting with each other too, and hopefully that's something that will happen in the next installment!

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The publication date is 19th January 2016)

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  1. That was the main appeal of Caraval for me too! Im sorry it didnt live up to that! :/

    1. It was unfortunate, but maybe it just didn't suit my tastes!


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