Probably one of my most anticipated reads of the year, so I was understandably excited to jump into this one this month. Here’s my full, spoiler free thoughts!
Spoiler Free Review
Authors: Stephanie Garber
Published: Flatiron Books, 2017
Ever since she was little, Scarlett has dreamt of two things: escaping the loveless life she leads with her abusive father and visiting Caraval – a once a year performance on an island far away. When she finally receives an invitation on the cusp of getting married, Scarlett is unsure of what to do. Her mind is finally made up, however, when her sister is captured and taken away to be the ‘prize’ of this year’s Caraval performance.
Okay, like I said, this book was one I had been looking forward to for a very long time. I had preordered by copy months in advance! It took me a little while to finally pick it up – because once you’ve read it for the first time, there’s no going back – but I’ve finally got around to it.
I’m going to be honest: I’ve got quite mixed feelings about this book. I’ve heard largely good things about this story, but I was left feeling unsure of what rating to give on Goodreads, my finger hovering over quite a few stars.
Let’s start with the characterisation. On the whole, I enjoyed the characters. There was a lovely mixture of stars in this book, most of whom are interesting and inviting, and they more than keep you guessing. I enjoyed the characters of Caraval, feeling that they added to the mystery of the game. The story mainly revolves around the two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, and I felt like you knew them well as the story progressed. The character of Scarlett started to feel more real as she began to struggle with her own wants, and the overwhelming want of finding her sister. However (and this is a BIG bug bare of mine), I can’t get on board with characters who make decisions that seem to be so convenient. I felt this happened quite a few times in the novel, and that left the story feeling a little lacking to me.
I enjoyed the setting of the book. Having heard hundreds of reports about how this book was the new The Night Circus, it really intrigued me. I have to say that yes, the flavour of the book and the bare bones of the plot are similar – playing a game that involves magic and mystery – but that’s really it. The majority of the story and indeed the whole feel of the novel was really different, at least to me. Once we got to Caraval, there was some lovely world building and the book came alive. Garber spent quite a bit of time detailing the places within the game, which definitely added to the feeling of mystery and magic. This seemed like the only place that mattered, though, because there wasn’t much world building outside of the island where Caraval took place. I was left feeling a little confused as to how these islands operate, and why they are divided, as this isn’t ever really explained.
Finally, the plot. This book was so fast paced – another think that made it it’s own rather than a replica of The Night Circus – and there were so many things happening. It really felt like you went on an adventure whilst you read this book. I was mostly kept guessing throughout the story, which I liked, until the end when I felt that too much was happening at once. There was drama, relationship angst and suspense, which did keep me entertained.
Personally, I felt that the ending could have been drawn out further and given more time – it felt a little rushed, and that was mostly why I felt so unsure of the rating I wanted to give it. It took me a while to digest what had happened, because it felt like such a whirlwind, where everything was just suddenly settled in order to finish the book. At least there was an intriguing set up to the second part in this duology, which I’ll still definitely be reading. I’m hoping that the next part will give more of a final feel to the ending.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
A good book which just didn’t really live up to its expectations for me. If I hadn’t been so excited, I might have loved it more. There were definitely parts of the novel I enjoyed – and it was quite a ride, which I liked. But the rushed, haphazard and ‘what the hell is happening?’ ending kind of put me off a little bit. I’ll still be looking out for the sequel though.
What are your thoughts? Did you enjoy Caraval? I’d love to know your thoughts!