{Leah Reviews} Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Posted February 20, 2017 by Leah in Reviews / 15 Comments

{Leah Reviews} Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)

by Stephanie Garber
Pages: 407
Published on January 31st 2017
by Flatiron Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

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.

3 Stars

Books that take place in the circus or carnival are MY JAM. When the publication for Caraval, which features a magical circus, was announced, the hype was insane. And I had to read it.

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It was FairyLoot’s January box pick, so I dove right in and prepared for a romp in the circus. The writing is compulsively readable–I binge read this in two sittings.

We first meet sisters Scarlett and Donatella Dragna after they’re invited to Caraval by Legend, the carnival master. The world is brought to life with exquisite detail and is a true feast for the imagination. Whether it’s a carousel made of roses or a dress that mimics the wearer’s emotions, I was dizzy with the magic and wanted so much to be in Caraval.

Scarlett and Donatella have suffered under their abusive father’s behavior. Each girl has tried to cope in different ways: Scarlett is engaged to marry a man she’s never met, and Tella always gives her heart to the wrong man. Scarlett, like Mim in The Secret of a Heart Note, has synesthesia, and the way Scarlett’s works is fascinating. But as I was reading, I never empathized with the main characters. They never became fully fleshed out. When they enter Caraval with Julian, Tella’s newest paramour, the stakes get raised when Tella is taken–and I wasn’t as invested as I should have been. There are some nice moments, a few in particular between Scarlett and Julian, but I wanted more from the characters.

Scarlett does not participate in the revelry. There were so many vibrant things going on that I wanted to see her get involved in but she is always on the periphery. I understand she’s concerned with getting Tella back; however, for this being a book about a circus, there really is not a lot Scarlett experiences in this circus.

The twists and turns involving the game kept rising and reaches a crescendo. However, all of the twists don’t add up. My need for answers quickly turned to concern. After everything is explained and I reached the end, my concern turned to disappointment.

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I am in the black sheep about my feelings for Caraval but I can’t deny that I could not put it down and will hold the world in high regard. I’m only sad that I didn’t care more for the characters. However, there’s a companion book on the horizon, and Caraval is calling me.


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15 responses to “{Leah Reviews} Caraval by Stephanie Garber

  1. I REALLY struggled with this one. The world had pockets of awesomeness, but I was kind of expecting more, largely from all the hype. And the disconnects and twists … eh, wasn’t terribly thrilled either. The characters frustrated me because they just felt flat — as you said, I couldn’t empathize with them AT ALL. I liked Julian well enough, but that my itself does not a book make. My review is posting next week 🙂

    • Leah

      I hear you–I wanted those pockets of awesomeness to be bigger and grander and more Caraval. I was let down by that the most, but I am hoping good things for the second one.

  2. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy it as much as you had hoped. I want to read it but haven’t gotten the chance yet. I’m really worried about the hype. I’ve read a couple books that people hyped up and then was left disappointed. We’ll see, I guess. lol

    • Leah

      Usually the hype surrounding a book doesn’t bother me, but I admit, I got caught up in Caraval fever. 🙂 LOL! I know what you mean about overly hyped books not living up to expectations. It’s so disappointing.

  3. I read this book a few weeks ago and for whatever reason just never got around to reviewing it yet. I absolutely adored the book, but I felt like more could have been added to the world building aspect of the book – I didn’t think there was enough attention to detail to really pull me in. Plus there wasn’t much of a backstory…Scarlett and Tella were from the conquered Isles, but what’s the history there? Conquered by whom? It was a good book, and I hope the sequel touches more on these aspects of it, including the characters themselves, as you pointed out. Great review!

    • Leah

      That’s one of the things that nagged at me as well–why are they the Conquered Isles? What’s the format for their calendar? That backstory intrigued me and I hoped for an explanation. I’m also hoping the second book adds that to the mix.

  4. I’m in the middle of reading this right now. I’m about 100 pages from finishing it and I started it yesterday. I’m flying through it because the writing style is really captivating to me, but I completely know what you mean about not being invested with the characters. I’m more here for the world building and the premise behind the book. The characters are a little ‘meh’. Great review!!

    • Leah

      🙂 The opposite happened with me: I saw nothing but positive reviews. Now that more people have read it, it’s mixed.

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