Book: Caraval (untitled 1) by Stephanie Garber
Release Date: January 31st 2017 (early Dutch release October 17th 2016)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.
After reading the first few chapters I fully expected to fall in love with this book. That did not quite happen, though I shall still happily recommend it to anyone. Caraval starts with a few letters that were exchanged between the master and our main character Scarlett who wants Caraval to visit them. Caraval isn’t quite a circus like we are used to or even how it is portrayed in The Night Circus for instance. It is more of a game where you can either be a watcher or a player. I don’t think I’d want to be a player in this world. So much that deceives you. But I would want to be a watcher though because it sounds amazing to see and to be. Like a once in a lifetime experience which is what draws our characters towards it of course. And what drew me to be so intrigued by it. I would however have loved it if we had spend a little less time in the hotel room. Just a bit less, and had gotten to see more of Caraval and the other players.
Stephanie Garber has a lovely way of writing that shows you what the world is like. The mood throughout the first three quarters of the book were also very beautifully done. It was a beautifully mystery and alongside Scarlett you went up and down in your ideas and even accusations. Because who is the mysterious master of Caraval? Who took Scarlett’s sister? What was really Julians role to play? It was lost a little in the last quarter for me but that had more to do with the ending of this plot.
I just don’t feel that the last quarter or 20% of the book quite matched with the rest of the feel of the book. For me in any case. It was where the author lost me a bit. I thought the ending with her sister and master was a bit too farfetched (with the exclusion of the epilogue). I also thought the Julian plot line was wrapped up a bit too neatly. This was a world that threw you from one side to another. For it to have such a neat little bow wrapped up at the ending just felt wrong to me. I am still very much hoping that in the next book this neat ending will be torn completely apart. I know. But I want my hurt and tears that I was expecting at the end of this book. I didn’t get it. I’m disappointed.
As for the romance, I think Scarlett is a bit of a hypocrite. Saying how her sister couldn’t fall in love within five days. Excuse me, isn’t that what you did with Julian? Adding on to that, the love was a tad on the insta love side for me. I would have preferred them moving to romance to have taken longer than this book. But I have this 99 times out of a 100 when it comes to romance within young adult so I won’t make it count too hard. I was invested in their romance so that is something.
Regardless of these few negative points (to me) I did really enjoy reading this book. I am very curious to see what will happen in the next book. I hope to see some hurt. It has a lot of potential in any case.
Did you read Caraval? How did the ending make you feel?