Not-a-Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre: YA, fantasy
Page count: 402
Originally published: January 2017
Caraval is the story of two sisters, desperate to get away from their cruel father’s rotten-plummy stench. The sisters find themselves swept up in the magic of Caraval. Only the novelty quickly wears off for Scarlet as the stakes of the game are raised and she finds herself in a game of depravity and wits—of which she seems to have neither—that she must win, or face the dire consequences. But that’s just my take on it. You can find the synopsis from goodreads below:

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

Not-a-Review breaker
Character: rereader
Plot: YAASSS!!!!
Worldbuilding: Meh
Flow: YAASSS!!!!
Entertainment factor: Rereader [ ★★★★]
Did I enjoy this book? Yes.
Do I think the read a waste of time? No.
Would I read it again? Yes.

Rating: Rereader

4 stars
blog breaker bottom

If you’re looking for something a bit more in depth, a bit more personal, feel free to keep reading. If not, congratulations! That’s it! You’re done! Now, go buy a book (or not)!

Let me start with the bad, since there’s not much of it. First, the characters are a bit cliche and their development was slow, if it even existed—there were some characters that I wanted to see so much more of, but their page-time was cut to make way for the didn’t-need-to-be-so-slow development of others. The main character, Scarlet, is pretty highstrung and it took me a while to warm up to her. In fact, it took me exactly until the point where she stops worrying and starts acting.At first glance, her sister seems more of a heroine than Scarlett—she has a rebellious side fueled by a strong mind. As for Julian, he is another lovable scoundrel-type character trying to convince the main character to use her underutilized, real-world brain—but I want to emphasize the word lovable in that sentence, because I liked him long before I liked Scarlet. The only other thing that I didn’t care for was the worldbuilding—or lack thereof. The magical world of Caraval is wonderfully imagined, but if you try to go beyond that and dig into the historical and political underpinnings of the conquered isles, there’s nothing. Nothing but mist and fog and empty promises—just like the beach that surrounds Caraval.

Now, the game and magic of Caraval is the heart and soul of this novel—duh. The book comes to life once the characters get there and it doesn’t take a break until the end. For me, this was definitely a page turner. If life wasn’t such a demanding little imp I could’ve read it in one sitting. Garber uses some of the most amazing descriptions I’ve read—she attaches colors to emotions so beautifully and the comparisons she draws between them somehow make perfect sense—so perfect that it took me a while to realize she was even doing it! That was without a doubt my favorite part of this book. The writing is not bogged down with anything unnecessary, everything put into this novel has a purpose and a place, making for a great flow. There were so many twists and turns that it was almost hard to keep up with. A lot of the forces driving the plot don’t make sense and contradict each other right up until the end of the story, when everything seems to have become confusing beyond repair and then FINALLY comes together just when you think there aren’t enough pages left.

I’d definitely recommend giving this a read! Despite its few flaws it has a great plot that’s entertaining and its constant twists make you want to keep reading. I just wish there had been more worldbuilding and character building. But, with such a twist-heavy plot it makes sense that something had to step into the background. Even when I finished it, I did not want to put this book down—I just wasn’t ready for it to be over. It’s such an easy, fun read that I’ll definitely be rereading when the sequel is released.

If you’re still reading, give yourself a pat on the back! As a reward for sticking through until the end, here are some of my favorite quotes from Caraval—some of which are examples of Garber’s amazing colored emotions—followed by my Pinterest aesthetic board for Caraval!

sign off

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”
“Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.”
“Shades of the rich ruby love she’d felt during the game mixed with hues of deep-indigo hurt, turning everything just a little bit violet.”
“There’s more to life than staying safe…”
“He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.”
“Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.”
“I think I’ve made a mistake.”
“Then make it into something better.”
“Every touch created colors she had never seen. Colors as soft as velvet and as sharp as sparks that turned into stars.”


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