Today I am bringing you my review of Caraval by Stephanie Garber.
Quick story before we get started…
Well, the buzz about Caraval has been insaaaaaaane. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the start of 2017, and as soon as it dropped I ran out to buy it from my local book shop. At this stage, I had not seen all of the freaking beautiful secret covers! (For those of you who don’t know, each copy of Caraval- UK editions – has a secret cover underneath the dust jacket. Exhibit A:
HOW FREAKING BEAUTIFUL, AM I RIGHT?)
So anyway, I bought the paperback because I’m obviously dopey as hell. Once I started seeing the beautiful covers posted all over Instagram, I told myself that I would buy the hardcover online if I rated it a 4 or 5 star read. And I rated it about a 4.5/5! I LOVED IT! So I finished my 5 books for the cycle (see my previous posts for details on my book buying restrictions of the year) and jumped on to Book depository to make my order because they were half price, woohoo! As soon as I got on there, they were sold out. On all websites. I am crushed right now guys! I guess I will just pay full price when it becomes available again 😦
ANYWAY, back to the review.
My rating: 4.5/5 STARS!
I’ll break my review into 4 sections: plot, world, characters and writing.
Caraval, within the story, is this magical carnival that people can attend, and become completely immersed in. For certain reasons, Legend, the master of Caraval had decided to stop the performances for a number of years.
Scarlett had been writing to him for years, asking if he could bring Caraval to their island, but he never returned her letters. One day, in a last ditch effort, Scarlett writes one last letter to Legend asking him to come. She is completely shocked when he responds to her letter, with tickets to Caraval and the secret location.
Scarlett and her sister Tella, caged in their own home with their abusive father, the Governor of their island, escape to Caraval and all its’ mysteries. But they have to remember, it is only a game.But is it?
That might not have been a great summary, but it was the best I could do without giving away important plot info e.g. spoilers. Caraval was equal parts whimsical, eerie and romantic, with some great action thrown in for good measure. The plot was really well paced, and had me hooked from start to finish. It did get a little slow in the middle, but not slow enough to hinder my enjoyment.
I loved the twist and turns in Caraval, especially the twists in the last 50 pages! Oh my!
The world built in Caraval reminded me a little bit of colonies in the early 1900s. Many of the islands were referred to as “Conquered Isles”, so that is really what gave me the impression. This time period combined with the general ambiguous “fairy tale” period of most Disney films. And that is it, the whole book is almost like reading a fairy tale, well, a bit of a creepy fairy tale.
There was no magic anywhere in the story, except for in Caraval. And atmosphere in Caraval was nothing short of magical. The descriptions and use of colour made the world building really vivid and easy to imagine. Everything had this feeling that it was just a bit off, though. Which is the point, I think it is supposed to make you feel uneasy! It was a very rich world, and the whole inner workings of Caraval and its history were very clear and made sense (well, as much sense as can be made of a magic carnival.)
Our main character, Scarlett, while she has the best intentions, is still flawed and a bit of a special snowflake at times, but I still found myself cheering for her. I did get a bit annoyed with her at times, but not enough for me to want to stop reading. Anyone would probably be bound to make stupid decisions in her position! She is caring and kind and always wants to do what is right in the big picture, not so much what might be right in that moment.
Tella, Scarlett’s younger sister, is the complete opposite.The sisters reminded me a little bit of Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, Scarlett being Elinor and Tella being Marianne. Tella did annoy me a fair bit, but once I got to the end of the book, I finally understood most of her actions.
Julian, our love interest, is not always entirely honest. He was very morally grey and I LOVE HIM! He was probably my favourite character out of all of them.
Their father as the villain however, I think he needed to be fleshed out a bit more. This apparently put a lot of people off the book, because they found him one dimensional. I can agree to an extent, his actions kind of lacked any motivation that made sense. Overall, he had a real “Disney villain” vibe to him.
And I don’t know enough about Legend (who is mental, I’m pretty sure) to make too many comments, but he needs more fleshing out as an antagonist or whatever it is he ends up being.
I personally LOVED the writing. Garber’s use of colours in her descriptions and metaphors was absolutely beautiful. It really gave Scarlett, as a character, perspective, and I could visualise the world the way that she saw it.
Considering Garber is a debut author, I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.
I loved Caraval, in case you couldn’t tell!
Go pick it up if you can!
Comment down below if you have read it, I want to know your thoughts! I know it was a perplexing read for some!
UPDATE! BD has the hard cover in stock, I can’t wait to see which cover I get!