Book blurb: Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.
My take: I decided to read Caraval because I was intrigued by the premise. It reminded me a little bit of the idea behind The Night Circus, a book I loved reading. The book designers did a great job conveying both magic and mystery, too.
Well, I can tell you that Caraval is a fantastic book… if you’re an angsty teenager.
Which I’m not. Not even in spirit.
And so, Scarlett grew very tiresome very quickly. Tella was also never really fleshed out as a character, and I wondered why Scarlett would even want to find her. Julian was somewhat interesting, but yo-yoed back and forth between villain and hero so many times I grew dizzy.
And then there is the actual Caraval. A place of mystery and enchantment! Where the audience is part of the game! Where illusion is real! A village inside a house, with canals and streets and magical carousels! Sadly, Stephanie Garber spends 90% of her time in Caraval inside Scarlett’s confused and timid mind. ‘Should I do this? But it’s scary! Maybe I should do this? But that’s scary too!’ Girl, look about you, describe what you are seeing and enjoy the wonder. Let go a little. And then a little bit more.
Also, the author spends quite a lot of time describing dresses and outfits in detail – wuh? Like I said, a fantastic book if you’re an angsty teenager. It will all make sense to you, no doubt, and I understand why the book is selling well. A movie or TV series is in the works, too, perhaps that’s why the dresses needed detailed observation?
As for me, I’ll steer clear of YA Fantasy/YA Romance from now on. I’ve read enough to know it’s not for me, and there are so many other books out there that need to be read, too. ^^
A final note: there is domestic abuse in this book, which might be a trigger for some readers. The author delves a little into why in heaven’s name a father would want to beat up his children, but beyond a very cursory possible explanation towards the end she clearly needed at least one outright baddie more than she needed another tortured character with a dim chance at redemption. I’m fine with either, but I think it would have served the book to pick one path and go with that. For me the father now just remains a confusing jumble of traits. Much like the rest of the book, really.