Hello, friends and followers! Today on the blog, I talk about my feelings for Caraval, by Stephanie Garber, which were very mixed. I received this book in an OwlCrate box, and was really excited to read it. The covers are beautiful- I mean, look at that lovely teardrop on the naked hardcover! As a fan of all things fantastical and magical, I was looking for a unique twist on the “carnival” theme, and was given something more along the lines of… a psychological thriller? If you’ve read Caraval before, I would absolutely love to hear what you thought of the book in the comments below!
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.
There are all sorts of shades of abuse in this book- verbal, physical, emotional. Scarlett is constantly manipulated throughout this book and that makes her an enormously frustrating character. From the summary, you already know that her father is cruel, and you know that this year’s game of Caraval involves her and her relationship with her kidnapped sister, Tella. I understand that it is just a game, but it seemed that nothing was in Scarlett’s control. Not even the ending. It was difficult to get through the book with a pretty inept protagonist that was constantly acting like a damsel in distress, while trying to save the actual damsel of the game, who was possibly in distress.
Okay, that might have been a bit harsh. While I didn’t care for Scarlett, I was entranced by the popup village of Caraval. The game creates a new reality for participants to play in, consisting of magic and extravagance. The dress and environment reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, but perhaps a bit more risque. Throughout the game, we learn just how multi-dimensional Caraval can be. It may have difficult for Scarlett to remember that Caraval was just a game (or is it?), and it was even more difficult for me, as a reader, to discern what was real and what should be totally impossible. In this respect, the book toes the line between fantasy and reality very well.
As a caveat, this is the first carnival-themed book I can remember reading in recent years. I did not read The Night Circus before this. Perhaps I would have allowed myself to get a little more lost in Caraval if I had, and been less skeptical. Who knows? Despite the flatness of the protagonist and the way that her decisions grated on my nerves, I was, however, compelled to keep reading because I knew that there was an ending to the book. I was holding out to see how the game ended, and Caraval roped me along for a delightful journey!
I rate Caraval 3/5 stars!