Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
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Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .
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 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.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.
Two sisters participate in the game of a lifetime in this young adult fantasy romance. Let’s review!
I’ve never been captivated by books centered around the magic of a carnival or circus. Sadly, Garber’s Caraval is not the novel to break me from my apathy. The plot is simple – two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella (Tella), are given tickets for Caraval, an elaborate whodunit dinner theater event performed once a year. The plot may be simple, but the rest of the novel is convoluted and cliched. To me, this book failed on almost every level.
- It failed as a fantasy. Development, what is thy name? We are given a generic, brief sketch of the world. The world-building is pretty much dropped once the sisters arrive to Caraval in chapter two. I would have loved more description about the world, and Caraval’s context in the world.
- It failed as a mystery. The mystery revolves around the kidnapping of Tella. The clues around her kidnapping seem so arbitrary. Scarlett’s thought process for discovering these supposed clues make very little sense to me.
- It failed as a romance. First strike – I’m usually tapped out when the romantic lead begins by kissing another sister (Page 1). Second strike – I’m very rarely a fan of romances developed over a short span of time. I never believed the strong feelings between Julian and Scarlett developed over a five day period, and certainly never love. Third strike – I’m not a fan of a romance starting as a lie. Sorry, not my kinda trope.
- It failed as a character-driven novel. I was not a fan of the sisters. Or Julian. Or any other character featured in this novel. It deals in too many cliches – the older, responsible sister; the younger, flight sister; the mysterious, attractive love interest; the cruel, oppressive father. I don’t mind cliches, but I’d like them to be used in a unique way. This novel would have been far more interesting if Scarlett was kidnapped over Tella.
Honestly, I do not understand the hype around this book. If you like it, great. But if you’re looking for something unique to the young adult fantasy genre, this is not it.
tl;dr A unfulfilling novel featuring cliched characters and a convoluted plot.