By Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
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.
This read of Caraval was double the fun for me! It was a reread (you can read my original review here) and also a buddy read with Debby at Always Booking (read her thoughts here). I am sticking with the normal 5 question format and then wrapping up with my final thoughts and a quick comparison of my past and current experience.
My Questions for Debby:
What did you appreciate the most about Caraval?
The world of Caraval itself, I loved the idea of it and how it was thought out. I never knew what I was going to find on the next page. There was always a new wonder to explore, something to keep me on the edge of my seat.
Keeping in suit with question number one, what would be your biggest complaint about the book if you have one?
Lack of connection with the characters… I really had no connection. I wanted one ever so badly because I loved the world building of this story. The plot was really well thought out but the characters were really off-putting to me.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Hehehe then you have this question and I had no connection and you want me to pick one. Ugh… Julian why?? I’m going to say he was the most evolved?? I’m not going to say how he evolved just that he did.
If you had to sum up this story in one sentence, what would you say?
Expect the unexpected…
Do you plan to read Legendary or any other books by Stephanie Garber after having read Caraval?
I have to say I kind of do want to read Legendary, but it’s not super high on my priority list. Unless my buddy reading partner says do it now!!!
*Bonus Question – Who is the best reading buddy ever? 😉
Hmmmm let me think about this………………..hehehe you!!!
Debby’s Question’s For Me:
Cover love or not so cover love?
Oh, this is definitely a case of total cover lover if ever there was one! And for once, I favor the US cover (which rarely happens).
As far as uniqueness for this book, how unique do you think it is?
If you had asked me this my first read through, I think my answer would have been slightly different. But I found it to be really enjoyable as a reread. I took my time and read this over the course of a few days. My first reading was crammed into one single night. This time I found that I appreciated the “game” and the storyline Garber has crafted in Caraval. I admit there are few familiar tropes and cliché moments, but overall the concept is quite unique. And so are some of the characters inserted throughout. I still greatly disagree with the Night Circus comparisons, but that does not mean it is not a rewarding story, just different.
Also since it was a reread for you, did your feelings towards the characters actions change since reading it the first time?
Yes and no. I still found myself grasping for patience with Scarlett, but there was also more empathy and acceptance on my part in terms of the abuse and sheltered life she has known. I think I benefited from reading her story twice. I feel like I picked up on certain details this time that made her more credible, although still frustrating at times. My feelings for many of the supporting characters did not change much for the better or worse.
Was the pacing of the book to fast? To slow?
Caraval is pretty fast-paced, which is one of its redeeming qualities and what carried me through it so effortlessly during my first read even though I had failed to really connect with it. That fact is also the reason I chose to start with it for the books I am giving a second chance. I knew it would be an easy read. The succinct pacing and writing play very well into the storyline though. I hope Legendary follows suit.
I’m stealing one of your questions… Who was your favorite character??? And why????
It is Scarlett. In spite of all her flaws, I felt for her and with her. I do grasp the fact that she comes from extremely difficult circumstances and carries the weight of not only her world but Tella’s on her shoulders. So while her actions and hesitations often frustrated me, I was also able to relate to certain aspects of her. And ultimately she pushes past her fears and perseveres with a big heart. I won’t label her my ideal protagonist, but in this book, she is my favorite.
My Final Thoughts & Comparison
Initial rating on Goodreads: 3
Updated Rating: 3.5 (close 4)
I want to start by addressing one initial hang up I originally had with Caraval that was not an issue during this read; the frequent use of color to describe just about everything ranging from feelings to taste. Garber is utilizing what I can imagine must be synesthesia as a basis for this and admittedly I struggled with it originally. Now jumping forward nearly 2 years as I battle an onslaught of neurological conditions, I get it and can appreciate it. However, it still feels slightly overdone. But I accept this aspect of her writing now and feel this greatly impacted my experience with the book second time through for the better.
While I still found myself failing to fully connect with many of the secondary characters, I did make additional allowances for Scarlett (as mentioned above) that I feel were only possible due to a second read. And in short, I simply enjoyed Caraval this time. It felt more enchanting and entertaining. I was more immersed. I attribute this to several factors: my own changing tastes appreciated the descriptive writing more, I allowed the book more time, and it was a buddy read which means discussion surely enhanced the experience. The final verdict is that I am glad I gave Caraval a second read!
TW: Abuse (psychological and physical) with mention of suicide and brief scene of attempted sexual assault.
I have not decided whether I should redo ratings or reviews on Goodreads for the titles I am retackling. What are your thoughts? If you have any suggestions on how to handle this, I am very open to ideas.
Enjoyed over a spiced pumpkin chai (yes I know it is not quite Fall, but it matched the atmosphere so well).