Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Young Adult
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 . . .
Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.
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 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. 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.
I had a very mixed reaction to Caraval. It was a lovely book, I’ll agree. And overall I enjoyed it — I was definitely kept guessing, and Garber was super effective at really making me second-guess everything I thought I knew. But … Well … Parts of it just didn’t work all that well for me?
I expected more from the imagery department.
Okay, so this is something I normally don’t care all that much about. But when a book is hyped specifically because of the great imagery and the creative & vivid scenery, I kind of expected to be WOWed by the world and, well, by Caraval. But I wasn’t. I fully expected something as beautifully vivid as Night Circus, and I didn’t quite get that.
Don’t get me wrong — the setup of Caraval is creative and unique and imaginative. But I didn’t feel like I was there, and that’s what I was looking for. The experience of Caraval, instead of just the mystery.
Some of the clues and questions seemed really random.
I like to feel like there’s meaning behind everything, and I struggled with that in this book. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why on earth anyone in Caraval would care about half of the questions / “secrets” they kept asking about. It just didn’t make any sense to me. In fairness, it all was done with a purpose in mind, but it didn’t feel like it until the very end of the book. I admit I enjoyed the “ooooohhhh, that’s why” moment when I finally figured it out. But until then it bothered me so much that I almost DNF’ed.
I really liked the love setup. And the idea of earning trust.
This was one of the most genuine love developments I think I’ve read in a long time — there was nothing ‘insta’ about it, and so much is in question about whether there’s even a real love interest for most of the book. I loved that. And I found myself routing for Scarlett and Julian to get together. And since so much is so … unclear? … Caraval actually ends up focusing an awful lot on trust and belief and choice and love. And I thought those themes played wonderfully together.
I actually didn’t like the surprise ending.
Okay, so everyone raves about how incredibly unexpected the ending is. I admit I was surprised too. But I actually didn’t like most of it. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I just … well, I wanted something different to happen. As a reader I was thrilled. But … well, I’m a sadistic writer. I can’t say what bothered me about it without giving MAJOR spoilers, unfortunately.
The world didn’t feel broad to me.
There were so many interesting things that could have been explored in this world, and I was kind of left wanting. So much took place within Caraval itself, but the buildup to get there could have been much more dynamic. Since the book starts with letters that are signed “Scarlett, from the conquered Isle of Trisda,” I was fully expecting to learn more about Trisda and its status as a “conquered isle.” Instead we got … well, we got Caraval.
And there’s a TON of history to Caraval that gets revealed throughout the book (which I loved), but I feel like there was an overwhelming focus on just one or two key points in Caraval’s history, and I wish more aspects had been explored. There’s reference to a progression of events, but then only one example that really gets revisited over and over. I just wanted more.
The character development was unbalanced.
I feel like Scarlett wanders at random, and has an epiphany partway through that she can be awesome. There wasn’t a lot of actual progression? And, other than randomly happening upon useful bits of information, I don’t feel like she actually did much, and it’s not until the very end that she actually grew a spine and realized she was worth something. She was so hung up on a naive notion of the world that it was a wonder that we were supposed to think she was clever.
Conversely, Julian was developed fairly well. And I liked his development, even though he was absence for large scenes at a time. And … there weren’t really any other characters worth talking about from a development perspective.
I do feel like some of the character back-stories were very weak. Just like with Caraval itself, the back-story for the characters hinged on vague notions with only one or two concrete examples. There was a lot of potential there, but I just didn’t feel a connection to any of their histories.
Ok, so here is where I REALLY struggled. I LOVE Rebecca Soler. But she narrates The Lunar Chronicles. AND the main character is named Scarlett. AND there’s a random other character named Iko.
I lost my mind. Seriously, I did. I just … that was too much for me.
Soler did a phenomenal job narrating (as always), but I kept expecting a fancy French accent and snarky witicisms to come pouring out of Scarlett’s mouth and it just never happened.