Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Author: Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Romance, Magic
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Page Number: 407 pages
Pub Date: January 31st 2017
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.
Despite the many criticisms regarding this book (which many I agreed with, will get on it later), there are several factors in this book that definitely deserved praise, and that is the world-building, the amazing atmosphere/tone, and the story (not the execution, just the story’s basic idea and originality). This book was the thing in 2017. It was everywhere. I kept seeing it everywhere, kept hearing it everywhere; the hype surrounding this book was quite insane. I finally read it after having this book in my possession for about 7 months (I got this for my birthday in January). My interest in this book continued to grow steadily as time went by, and finally having time, I read it in July. It’s really the shame that this book does seem a bit like a jumbled mess, because the author, in my opinion, didn’t execute or organize the mystery factor in the story as well as she could’ve had, and she didn’t fully achieve the potential in book’s original idea. There are several factors regarding the story-line and mystery that did not make sense, or just doesn’t click as well as it could’ve had. A good twist and mystery, no matter how complicated, should always give that satisfying click to the reader’s minds when everything is revealed. The moment when everything made sense when in this move-style-montage moment you remember every single little detail and how it suddenly all made sense. This book…it’s not that bad, but I definitely feel like it could’ve been cleaner. I see many people disliking Scarlett’s narrative, especially being compared to Donatella’s, and I must disagree. I absolutely savor her security and her tendency to be less impulsive, reckless, and generally less stupid. She’s definitely not the smartest, but after reading so many heroines who are always making decisions that I’m screaming “no” to, I’m really appreciative to her more…perverseness. Also, her more narrative style, tone, and rhythm help prevent distracting the reader too much from this beautiful worldbuilding, creepy atmosphere, and mysteries. Speaking of world building, this book’s world building absolutely lived up to that gorgeous book cover. The detailed descriptions combined with Garber’s imaginative storyline just do wonders for the book. Ultimately, what made this book less perfect than it could’ve been is more due to the author’s could’ve-been-better execution than its potential. This book is something special, and despite its flaws, I wouldn’t completely call this book overrated. This book definitely deserved its hype, and its eccentric idea is definitely something worth acknowledging.
about the author
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