Sometimes you come across a book that instantly catches your attention. When I first heard of the novel Caraval by debut author Stephanie Garber, I was intrigued. The cover of the book was gorgeous (I’m a sucker for good covers) and the summary also interested me. Before I go into a long review of this book, I just want to say that the hype is justified. This is a fantastic book and definitely one of my new favourites.
Caraval is about the sisters Scarlett and Tella Dragna, who live on a small island. Their mother is out of the picture and their father a rather violent man. They have never left the island, but it is their dream to one day witness the mysterious Caraval, a game and performance led by the elusive Master Legend. After years of writing, Scarlett and Tella finally get invited to the Caraval, but they get more than they bargained for…
I have seen quite a few people who compare this book to The Night Circus. I have never read that novel, so I can’t compare the two. What I do know is that I think the story of Caraval is well thought out and a pleasure to read.
The story takes place in a bright and colourful world. In my head it kind of looked like the Leonardo Dicaprio version of the Great Gatsby. It is a world full of magic and wonder, but also a dangerous one. People lose their minds playing the game, the lines between what is real and what is not are blurry. I enjoy books set in worlds like this. It keeps the story interesting because you’re not sure if this is a place where you want to go to or not. If we compare it to the Hunger Games for example, I’m pretty sure I’m good not visiting Panem, thank you very much.
The thing I enjoyed about the story was that it wasn’t predictable. When Scarlett discovers something new, it is new to the reader as well. Sometimes you see things coming from miles away, but not in this book. There were quite a few plot twists, especially near the end of the book. It made sure that I kept reading (I kept telling myself just one more chapter. Even though it was way past midnight already). At times I thought it was a little bit confusing, but that did not affect my feelings towards this book. Furthermore, I do have to admit that sometimes the focus was too much on Scarlet loving her sister so much. Whenever Scarlett started about wanting to protect her sister once again, I sighed a bit. But hey, not a single story can be perfect.
I liked the protaginist, Scarlett. While at times she was so naive that I wanted to slap her in the face and tell her to open her eyes, she was endearing. Not to mention the fact that I admired her bravery and curiosity. I guess you can argue that yes, she is a typical girly girl. She wants a handsome guy to sweep her off of her feet. But that doesn’t mean that she is not strong or inspiring. Her devotion to her sister is especially admiring.
Another character I enjoyed was Julian. I won’t share too many details, as I enjoyed discovering his characters by reading about him myself, but he is a good one. At times I was getting a little tired of all the descriptions about how handsome he was, but it was written from Scarlett’s perspective. It’s understandable.
Most of the characters in this book are rather mysterious and none of them are who they seem to be. This makes it interesting to discover more about them. Just when you think you know a character, they do something that is completely different than what you thought they would do. I truly enjoyed that.
The book is written in a rather poetic style. Scarlett uses quite a lot of metaphors to describe the things she sees. She sees emotions as colours, which is an interesting concept. The writing style is something that has to appeal to you. I enjoy prose like this but I can understand it is not appealing to everybody. A downside to the writing is that there was quite a lot of repetition of certain sentiments (“I want to find my sister and get home in time for the wedding!” or “Julian is so handsome!”). While that has nothing to do with the writing, it is part of how it is written but that is my only critique on that.
There are people who don’t like this book and people who adore it. This is the type of YA book that is a typical story of a beautiful girl who falls in love with a handsome boy and who has to overcome obstacles. If you are into YA fiction with a deeper message, then this is not for you. But if you enjoy romance and magic and like to be carried away, Caraval may be just the right novel for you.