One-Sentence Review: A magical story set in a world you will without a doubt wish was real, this novel fell a little flat with characters but made up for it with the flawless plot, writing style, and, of course, fantastical setting.
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. (Summary from Amazon)
I have really mixed feelings about this book. One hand, the world it was set in was one of the best I’ve seen: I wanted (and still do) so desperately to visit the magical Caraval and experience the wonders of this fantastical circus for myself. On the other hand, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the characters, especially Scarlett: I felt that a lot of the time she was very overdramatic, and her lines sometimes felt like they came straight from a soap opera.
One thing this book definitely had going for it was that I felt like I was really a part of the story: I was suspicious of every character, wondering along with Scarlett what was real and what was just part of the game. Garber makes the reader feel as if he/she is experiencing the magic of the circus along with all the characters, and I couldn’t help but be fascinated by all the wonders of Caraval, as well as wanting to figure out the clues just as badly as Scarlett did.
The plot of this book was absolutely non-stop, never lulling and always capturing my utmost attention. I was terrified of missing the slightest detail, fearing that I would skip over some essential little clue that would later prove to be the key to the characters’ success. Not to mention the suspense and action was endless: my heart was constantly racing, and I never was able to predict what was going to happen next. This story constantly surprised and shocked me, leaving me at once completely confounded and wondering how the heck I hadn’t seen that coming.
Where this book was somewhat disappointing was in the character department. I adored Julian (surprise surprise) but my love for the characters pretty much ended there. Like I mentioned earlier I thought a lot of Scarlett’s dialogue came off as overly dramatic, and because there were so many characters, I didn’t really feel like I got to know many of them, causing a lot of them to just become single dimensional presences rather than complex components of the story. I’m hoping we get to know more of the performers and side characters in the sequel (which I need now), but in this one I was just missing what I was hoping would be a truly fantastic cast of characters.
Overall, I really did love this book, despite the fact that I didn’t fall in love with many of the characters. Garber’s writing style was utterly fantastic, adding to the magical ambience that really sets this book apart. And after that epilogue, I’m more than anxiously awaiting this novel’s sequel.
A little warning before you go into it: don’t forget it’s all a game ;).
Make sure to come back next Wednesday for a new review!