Friday, April 21, 2017

Caraval - Stephanie Garber

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from

My Review: This is one of those books that just looks really cool. I'm not talking like I was browsing along and "Yeah, this looks pretty cool." I'm talking about how the book itself actually looks really cool. I like the way the invitations to the Caraval are written, I liked how the book was divided into sections, I liked the artwork. It was I've read several books in the YA Fic genre that look really cool, and I just love the tone it sets. The way a book looks matters, people. It just does.

So the premise of this is pretty cool. It takes place in a fantastical realm, and like many books that do this, there are different territories (or countries or kingdoms or whatever) and the oppressed ones often don't know what it's like elsewhere, or even if elsewhere exists. Sometimes the book really describes this a lot and we know a lot about the world, but this isn't such a book. We know some about the world, but when I think back it's all kind of fuzzy. I know the main characters are from a conquered place, unaware of other places and what they're like, and that makes Caraval even cooler. The world building in this isn't so important, though, because the real story is about Caraval. 

Don't you just love that name--"Caraval?" I think it's really a fun description of what the Caraval is--the magic, the mystery, the carnival/mardi gras/crazy game that is Caraval. I think it's a really apt name for a lushly described environment. Just like the look of the book, the descriptions are lush and varied. The Caraval was well-described and Garber obviously had a very clear picture in her mind of what everything looked like. It was fun to read about the sumptuous surroundings and the elaborate clothes and frenzied behavior of the people. Sometimes I felt like these descriptions were a little formulaic, never varying in their number of descriptive words or the obligatorily followed analogy. It was almost like every noun in Caraval was put in a long list, and then she went through and gave every one two descriptive words and a metaphor, creating a pattern that she followed every.single.time. At least she was consistent, right? I found it to be slightly distracting at some points, but I still enjoyed the book.

Now for the story. As with most books, it was going along just great and was really fun and interesting, and then the ending came along. The ending was fine, but as with most books (endings are hard, as we all know), it felt rushed and a little confusing, like Garber knew exactly what she wanted to happen but she'd run out of pages and therefore had to close the entire book in the span of three paragraphs. I'm exaggerating, but it did have that rushed feel and the slight dysphoria that comes from not knowing exactly what transpired after reading such lush transcriptions and then all of a sudden you're just dumped out the other side wondering what happened to you and the rest of the book. It was certainly finished and had an ending point, but it did seem a little rushed in comparison to what the rest of the book was like. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Yes, it had its writing issues as mentioned above. This may be due to the author's inexperience, although she was definitely a fun writer. The story was a fun distraction, and I'm looking forward to the next installment. If you're a fan of YA Fic, this is one I definitely recommend.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and some teenage sexual goings on, although nothing really graphic, and I think it's definitely on par with others in the genre, maybe even on the lighter side.

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