Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caravalthe-book
Caraval (Caraval #1)
By Stephanie Garber
Expected 1/31/17
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN13: 9781250095251
Pages: 416
Genre: Fantasy/YA

Blurb:

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.


my-thought

Caraval.. Caraval.. Caraval. Let’s just get to it.

This is the story of two sisters who have been terribly abused by their father for far too long. The years following the disappearance of their mother lead to much heartache and distress as their sadistic, dear old dad decides to begin punishing the two girls in more than concerning and cruel ways. Scarlett is the oldest, diligently watching over Tella. Through years of perverse and brutal treatment, it seems the one consistent joy was stories of Legend and his Caraval, as told by their nana.

Caraval is a travelling performance that involves the audience directly in a game led by the elusive and said to be magical, Legend. The show never performs in the same location twice and occurs just once a year. Longing for an invitation and taste of the magic, Scarlett writes to Legend year after year with no response. Then it finally happens. Her invitations arrive. But how can she possibly risk leaving and disobeying their father who would never allow their attendance? The consequences could be deadly.

Scarlett holds 3 tickets: one for herself, one for her mysterious betrothed, and one for her sister Tella. But fate has other plans. She soon finds herself in the middle of Caraval’s newest game with a young stranger by the name of Julian, searching desperately for Tella in hopes of returning home before her father is able to solve their disappearance. Time is of the essence for multiple reasons. And so our story begins..

Like many readers, I will also mention and admit that the promises of a story reminiscent to The Night Circus and a travelling carnival drew me in. I have been caught on more than one occasion singing the praise of Morgenstern’s beloved tale. It is a top read for me. So perhaps part of Caraval’s downfall was through my own fault. I entered with a pretense that was unfair to the story and the author. I did not find anything remotely familiar to The Night Circus, aside from a magical performance. And why should I have? This is someone else’s story. But none the less, I was already disappointed. I made a comparison I should not have.. tsk tsk.

It is hard to sum up a title you did not enjoy very well when you know you are going up against several contradictory factors:

  • I have literally only read one negative review (this book is loved).
  • I was able to actually finish this in one sitting.
  • The writing is solid and on par.

So yeah, everyone aside from myself and one other individual seem to find this lovely book to be a masterpiece. And I truly wanted to join in on that. Who doesn’t want to read incredible books?! We don’t flip through the shelves looking for shitty ones. Do I feel that Caraval was terrible? No, not at all. I can even greatly appreciate the reasons it has connected with so many readers.

Here is what I enjoyed..

  • This book is beautiful. The chosen cover and illustrated letters throughout only enhance the experience and add to the “magic”. A very aesthetic read has been created that I would be crazy to not acknowledge and find value in.
  • Garber’s writing is incredibly fluid. I know I may be guilty of using that term too often, but you could literally slap her picture next to it in the dictionary. This story unfolded with tremendous ease. I read 400 pages in an hour and a half!
  • The concept is full of ingenuity. I fell in love with the idea of an enigmatic, moving performance where attendees were actually part of a game.
  • The world building! If anything had a chance to be Caraval’s salvation, it was this. I have already mentioned that Garber can write. She spared no expense with constructing a whimsical and completely inviting atmosphere for the reader.

Why this ultimately resulted in a mediocre experience for me..

  • I failed to connect with a single character. Scarlett and Tella both hit so many nerves for so many reasons that it became very clear there would never be a fondness. Scarlett was weak in the worst way. The supporting characters offered me even less. I either hated them for the obvious (an abusive father).. or was left searching for any sort of crumb. They were vague and offered no true depth.
  • Fluff! This is where it fell through for me. Every description was about color. And everything tasted like color.. Color.. color..color. It just went on and on at some points. Maybe I lack creativity, because I have no freaking clue what blue tastes like! There were just too many details that could have been omitted without damaging the story. I feel like this could have been stripped down to just under 300 pages and still accomplished the mission successfully.
  • I expected more magic! The environment was ripe with fantasy. As I mentioned, she built an amazing world within Caraval. It felt completely under utilized at times. I was waiting for those big exciting moments, and it turns out they just weren’t too exciting.
  • That little drawn out love/hate relationship. I am not going to spoil this one, but I promise you will figure it out soon enough. It didn’t work for me, too cliché.
  • Last but least, the ending. Oh endings, how you make or break a book so easily. I found that while there were some surprises, as it all fell in place, that dreaded predictability snuck right in. Bastard! I was less than thrilled with the conclusion. So that was the final bad note.

So here is why I am going to give this book more stars than you might expect: I think I am struggling with YA in general. I still have a few YA titles lined up, but I find that the genre is agreeing with me less and less. So I am giving back a few points in the name of fair. I can understand without effort, why this book is popular among fans of YA Fantasy right now, and I have some serious respect for the author’s writing. With that being said, is this for me? No, sadly it is not. Do I think you will enjoy this? If you are a fan of YA Fantasy, and enjoy “colorful” details, it is certainly worth a peek. Do I expect to get some very disagreeable feedback? Of course 😉

*Special thanks to the lovely Amy

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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87 thoughts on “Caraval by Stephanie Garber

  1. I read the blurb and I was intrigued to say the least. I’m having second thoughts after reading your review and Nancy’s comment. Great review, sorry it didn’t work for you. Oh yeah, pretty sure blue tastes like chicken… or is it peppermint?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. Actually, you made me realize that I was a bit harsh in mine, probably, because of how upset I was that it wasn’t like The Night Circus. This is why I needed to read a review that’s a bit critical of it than just gushing about its goodness. I wanted to see if I was too blinded by my disappointment. I think your review is more fair.

    I also expected more magic and I agree with you about the end… Actually all the deception rubbed me the wrong way.
    I also think I’m struggling with YA fantasy. I’m tired of how romance heavy it is. I miss reading YA stories like those by Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley that do include romance but doesn’t have romance as its main focus.

    Umm, I disagree on the writing in Caraval, though right now it’s hard for me to tell whether that’s because I was expecting something else. It keeps going by to that comparison to Night Circus. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are the best for taking time to read this and compare ❤ I thought your review sounded honest and fair. You are completely right about The Night Circus though.. what a high standard to set. I was very let down. I have told myself I will stop doing that, but I did and here I am. Le sigh.

      As for the writing, it works for you or it doesn't 😉 I enjoyed the flow and pace. I thought she managed to keep things very audience "appropriate" and wrote something I was able to fly through. For me and how slow I am that is a good sign. But the fluff and detail was too much. So I would say it was solid, but definitely not Morgenstern. You can disagree all day as long as you continue to stop by so we can debate haha 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been debating about whether I want to read this for so long! Somethings about it just doesn’t sit right with me. I feel like I should be excited and intrigued by it but then another part of me just has no interest. Might have to wait til it’s available at the library.

    I haven’t read Night Circus so I’d have nothing to compare it to. I wonder if that would be a better read?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be a better read! Call me biased all day long, because I am. It is a favorite ❤ It truly wasn't a fair comparison though. I am surprised at how many readers found it to be. But reading is an individualized and personal experience, so I will not call them wrong, I just disagree 😉 Maybe if you read this first without experiencing The Night Circus, it would work better?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I might try that, just to see how it works out! I’ve been skeptical about The Night Circus as well for a while. Just can’t seem to get myself to pick it up even after all the fantastic reviews!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I knew something was up when Chelsea from Books For Thought didn’t care for it because she adores books like this. I also remember, early on, a Goodreads one star review that just said, “Nope.” Ha ha. I had gone to see if anyone I knew had read it yet, after I read the summary on Netgallery and it didn’t grab me enough to request it. No one had except for the hype bloggers who give all these books five stars, then I saw Mr. Nope, chuckled and moved on. Heh heh. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh we are back to the old “Thanks for sharing your thoughts” line heh? Haha I simply love you!

      It is weird, but while I didn’t care for this one, I am hesitant to tell others to write it off. But I agree, I do not think you would enjoy or connect with this too much. I feel confident in saying that much 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahhhh, without even reading the blurb I could tell why someone would think it would be a nice substitute to The Night Circus (book that I have yet to read, but plan on doing so!). It does suck to have expectations and not have them met. I also see why you’re starting to doubt YA novels now. I feel there’s only a handful of them that can please more than its target audience. Great and honest review though! 🙂

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, it is a small handful indeed. I have a few series I will continue to follow until they disappoint and I will read some of the more diverse books, but that may be it. Well except I lover retellings, which are too often YA.. dang. It might be a love/hate relationship after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. No negative feedback here Danielle. I’d much rather have you be honest about a book, and although I haven’t read it yet, it seems as though you’ve made some very valid points. Especially about not connecting to any of the characters. When that happens to me the entire story is lost. I still want to read this, but I think instead of buying it I’ll check it out at my library.💁🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that this was a mix of unrealistic expectations and not being the best audience. Maybe you will be able to connect with it much better than me. I do think if you can avoid comparing it to The Night Circus, you are off to a more promising start. I knew better 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Loved your review Danielle! Because I was even interested in this one (I remember requesting it… got denied lol) because of all the raving reviews… so I kind of like that it was disappointing for you… I was starting to suspect haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks, but I still seem to be in the minority. You never know 😉 But no, I wouldn’t feel to bad about being denied. Just snag it at the end of the month if you are interested. It is a smooth read, I give it that! You will not lose much time if you feel like testing it out ❤

      Like

  8. I’ve seen this title around and I think a lot of people are reading this now. I didn’t know it was kind of hyped and compaired to another book. I thought the blurb sounded pretty original but then I noticed you mentioning it was done before in another book, kind of. You kind love them all you know ;-).

    Liked by 1 person

                  1. Haha you ❤ I enjoy it much more than I ever imagined. I blame Amy @NovelGossip. She sent me several books. It was so wonderful that I found myself wanting to do the same. I am still stingy haha and will never give up my sets to series or lovely editions 😛 Nobody's perfect, right?

                    Liked by 1 person

                  2. No way! You have to keep some for yourself!! 🙂
                    It is a lovely thing to do!!
                    I would happily(I’m lying, I would rather begrudgingly) send out some books to other book bloggers, but y’all live in the US lol (the people I talk to anyway, I really need to be more active on twitter and meet new people lol)

                    Liked by 1 person

                  3. Nooo!! Why do you get discounts?!! That is awesome!! They should do that everywhere!!
                    Australia likes to rip eeeevvveryone off lol. Have you seen the exchange rate and the price of books over here! haha.

                    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review as always. I’ve seen nothing but glowing praise reviews for this to, yours and a couple of others are the only ones that give it straight about the book.

    Connecting with the characters is a big thing, you need that connection to either care about or despise them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Funnily enough I was never compelled enough to consider reading Caraval… how judgy of me… hehehe, but I absolutely LOVE you review and thoughts. The ‘fluff is such an enigmatic things ain’t it? It can really make a story or break it…

    As for the colors in Caraval.. it made me think of synesthesia. I wonder is the condition where author got ‘inspiration’ from? Interesting… but everything in healthy doses, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, always in healthy doses. the right amount of “fluff” can be an enhancer, but when it is being piled on at unnecessary points, I find myself groaning and wanting to skim haha. I did not, but when I was eating colors, I was tempted 😛

      Interesting concept about synesthesia though. That could possibly explain more of why taste was connected to description like it was ❤

      Like

  11. It’s very interesting what you say about YA because I have increasingly been feeling this way about a lot of YA books recently. I told myself I have finally reached that “age” where maybe it’s just not my thing anymore. That said I read Caraval back in September, and I did so not having read any reviews and not knowing much except it was a fantasy and everyone wanted a copy! Maybe it helped I read it while I was in Greece so the colour and sun helped but I adored it, I have to say I’ve not read the other books you mentioned so I had no comparisons to pull with it either so I guess that would help aswell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you were able to connect with this much better than I did. I can still respect how it works for many. I am struggling with YA, but I love retellings which are almost always YA. I may never break way completely haha. But mmaybe a break for now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Great, honest review, Danielle! I’ve been pretty excited about getting around to reading this one, but I’ve also heard that it’s similar to The Night Circus, so that’s what I would have went in expecting. Thanks for the heads up. I know not to expect that now!! Fluff isn’t good… that’s one of the major things I can’t stand in a book. But I think I’m still gonna give it a go. Hopefully I’ll like it. I’ll let you know when I read it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Megan ❤ You may enjoy this one better than I. Especially if you do not head in with the ill conceived notion that it will be reminiscent of The Night Circus. If you find that it does remind you of it, please let mme know your thoughts.. but I seriously was not able to make the connection. I hope it is a fun read for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. For me the comparison to TNC worked but that’s most likely because I don’t read much fantasy and especially not YA fantasy. So not much to compare it to? But I definitely liked TNC more.

    Anyway, sorry you didn’t love it as much as I did but I love your review and completely understand why it didn’t work so much for you. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Awww I’m sorry this one ended up not working out for you, Danielle. I’ve seen so much comparison to The Night Circus, especially in reviews. I’m kind of glad I’ve yet to read TNC (although it’s on my list for this year) because I would have definitely been expecting similar with the amount of comparison I’ve seen. I’m glad I know not to rely too much on that though, depending on which one I end up reading first. It’s good to hear there were parts you did like though and your review actually made me even more curious about it. I don’t mind some fluff in my fantasy. I’m excited to see what I end up thinking once I get around to it. Great review as always! 💕😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has a lot of potential so I am glad you are still curious and planning on reading it. I mean, after all, I read this in under 2 hours. So something was working. It just didn’t work for me exactly 😉 I would love to know whether you connect with this one. I also hope to see a review of The Night Circus when you read it ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. SEE? This is why I don’t read hyped books the year they come out. UGH. That would drive me crazy! The Night Circus is one of my all-time favorite novels, so I also would expect a ton. Don’t blame your love of The Night Circus for the fact that Caraval fell short. This is about you and this specific book.
    I love how honest you are. Overly descriptive book? Deus ex Machina ending? Yeah. I can totally understand how you might feel let down. Stand by your opinions! They are soooo worthwhile. And this is a wonderful review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Jackie! I am so terrible about falling victim to hype haha. Well, maybe it isn’t just hype if it worked for so many, but not for me. I need to learn to drop expectations before proceeding. And well.. The Night Circus sets some seriously high standards 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  16. You are not alone in feeling Caraval was just so-so. I’ve read a few other reviews that felt it didn’t live up to all the hype as well. I haven’t decided if I am going to read this one or not. I think I’m going to give The Night Circus a go first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Night Circus as I have mentioned a hundred times over, is stunning. I think you will have more of an opportunity to connect with Caraval though as long as you do not make the mistake I did and hold it to the same standards. I partially blame myself for this one. Both writers have created beautiful worlds, but they are certainly not the same. I hope you enjoy ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Really great review! I too am a Night Circus lover, and I’ve been very intrigued about Caraval because I saw a review that compared the two and was crazy about them both. But it’s really good to know that that they’re actually very different. I think I’ll still eventually give it a shot, but I think I’ll be better prepared for it now that I know that it’s not The Night Circus 2.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is definitely not The Night Circus. I suppose I should be fair and state that it is a performance centered around a game, so I can see very (I repeat very) vaguely how some might make the comparison. But I am still holding to the belief that was a mistake on my fault. I might have appreciated this more if I had went in blind 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I read it November and completely agree, even about YA in general. I liked it, sort of… TBH it just felt like it was missing something and the ending really annoyed me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The ending seemed to work for so many. A lot of readers I discuss this with enjoyed the twist. But for myself it felt very short coming and not too surprising. I am glad you can relate. I still have several YA series and books to follow up with. So I guess we will see what the future holds for myself and YA 😉

      Like

  19. I know what you mean about the YA genre. It’s becoming formulaic again because they know what sells. I hope I do like this, though I am easy to please. But I hope I don’t have to worry about tasting colors bc I don’t think I can picture that! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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