"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." - From Goodreads
Caraval by Stephanie Garber was one of those books that I had super high hopes for, based specifically on the synopsis. Secret moving game-fair type place where the lines of reality and dreams are blurred and the prize is a wish? Yes please!
Unfortunately, it was also one of those books that left me disappointed. I did not find myself caring for the characters at all, did not feel a sense of urgency in regards to Scarlett winning the competition and getting her sister back, did not get shocked or excited by the "twist." As much as I wanted to, I could not get emotionally invested in anyone or their relationships, even Scarlett and Tella's (don't even get me started about the "romantic" one).
Also, the overuse of similes and Scarlett seeing emotions as colours began to grate on my nerves.
The one thing I did want more of, kept wishing would be given more weight, was Caraval itself, and it was the thing that did not get the focus it deserved. There wasn't enough description of the place, we only get brief glimpses of the magic present (the tents with different potions, etc.), and at times I kept forgetting it was supposed to be a game, a competition. Which, considering that the plot revolves around this fact, was a let down. Only towards the end did the pace begin to pick up, and by then I had already used up all my enthusiasm.
Overall Caraval has a fantastic premise that doesn't quite live to its potential in my eyes, with focus on character relationships that fall short and not enough focus on setting and action. The cliffhanger at the end points to a sequel, which I've yet to decide whether I will pick up or not.
(Some) Memorable Quotes:
“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.”
“Scarlett was not fond of fate. She liked to believe if she were good, good things would happen. Fate left her feeling powerless, and hopeless, and with an overall feeling of lessness. To her, fate seemed like a larger, omnipotent version of her father, stealing her choices and controlling her life without any regard for her feelings. Fate meant that nothing she did mattered.”
“It is not fate, it is simply the future observing that which we crave most. Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”
If anyone has read Caraval let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!