Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 407
Release Date: 31st January 2017
Edition: Hardcover, Purchased
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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.

It's been so long since I have written a book review but this book makes me want to write one. Caraval is a mysterious fantasy book that will have you guessing until the last page. I'm going to break down my review into four parts.

The Concept of Caraval

My favorite part of Caraval is the concept of this game. I love every bit of it. There is a map in the front pages of the book which shows you the map of Caraval. However, I don't think the map has done the place any justice at all! It's too simplified and different from how I imagine Isla de los Suenos.
I wish Garber would introduce more of the extraordinary places in Caraval. I love the clock shop and Castillo Maltido. Castillo Maltido reminds me of the tents in The Night Circus, but apart from that, this book is made of its own magic and nothing like the story of Celia and Marcus.
I don't want to spoil anything, but I really love the idea of this game after everything is revealed. I was getting a bit upset before the end of the book because it's not what I imagine Caraval would be, but I'm glad after the truth behind the game unraveled because that explanation is much better.

The Plot

I have problems with the plot, but let me talk about the things I like first. I think it is smart using clues to get the story moving. What happens at each checkpoint also reveal more about Caraval and Legend. I marked down every significant reveal because I want to guess the ending, but I still failed! To be honest, I don't think anyone can get it right because the plot is complex. You really have to give it your full attention to comprehend what is going on at the end of the story.
What I don't like about the plot is that there are too many twists. I am a fan of stories with plot twists. Vertigo, Gemina, Shadow and Bone...all these stories with the biggest surprise you can get are my favorite. But this book? It abused the use of twists. It certainly reminds me of The Boy Who Cried Wolf because after a while you start not to believe in anything the author is telling you. The story would have been good with one to two surprises but there are just too many, making them less special.

The Characters

Scarlett, Tella and Julian are our main characters. I don't like Scarlett as our protagonist. She doesn't feel real to me. She is just a goody two-shoes with no mystery whatsoever behind her, and often thinks too important of herself. For example, she always thinks she is making the best choice for Tella and ignores the fact that Tella is also human and has the freedom to do what she wants. But I am glad after everything she has been through in Caraval, there is a major character development in her. Tella, on the other hand, is a more interesting character, and what we see in the last 30 pages is what makes me love her more. She caught me off guard as a character with depth. I think Tella would make a much better protagonist than Scarlett. BUT, the chemistry between our main players would have been different and less intriguing. This leads us to Julian, the mysterious sailor who helped the sisters get to the island. He is my favorite. I love Julian from the moment he confronts Scarlett about what Tella wants. I would love to elaborate why he is my favorite but I don't want to give anything away.
I love the romance. It does not feel insta-love to me, like in some reviews I have read. I think the two have been through a lot until they can be together. The best thing is they can see the goodness inside each other and understand the sacrifices each has to make instead of jumping into judgement. Hell yes, I just love this ship.

Writing Style

Before I read the book, I was hoping for a style like Erin Morgenstern's because of The Night Circus comparisons but no, I don't believe anyone can write as whimsical as Morgenstern. However, Garber's is not bad. I think it's fanciful enough to keep readers reading, and there are a few lines which I love.
Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.
She imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.
I'd like to point out that Caraval and The Night Circus are nothing alike. The magic, logic, characters, plot, setting...everything is different from each other. I cannot fathom where the comparisons came from. For fans of The Night Circus, don't expect too much from this book. You'll love it more if you just read it as it is.

All in all, despite the too many plot twists that have been put into this book, Caraval is still an intriguing novel with a highly fascinating concept woven together with magical sentences. I recommend you all to give it a try. Maybe you'll end up discovering your next favorite book.

Read an excerpt HERE.

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