Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
There was so much hype surrounding this book’s release. From its stunning cover to the fantastical story, everyone wanted it. I found out about Caraval through social media — you couldn’t throw a figurative rock on Instagram without seeing a photo of its gorgeous cover — and decided to pick it up. It sat in my TBR pile for a couple of months as they hype grew and grew. I finally picked it up and sadly, I think the hype might have spoiled it for me.
Caraval is a magical game led by Legend. It never visits the same place twice and tickets are highly sought after — the year’s winner will be granted a wish. Scarlett Dragna grew up hearing fantastical stories of Caraval from her grandmother, who was fortunate enough to attend once. She has been writing letters to Legend for years, begging him to bring the game back to her home Island of Trisda. Finally, after years of silence, Scarlett receives an invitation from Legend himself just before she is due to marry a man she has never met. But Scarlett soon discovers that in order to win Caraval and the grand prize she must be bold and fierce, for nothing at Caraval is as it seems.
Sounds brilliant, right? From all the excited and enthusiastic praise from fellow Bookstagrammers and bloggers, I expected something unlike anything I had ever read, something that would twist shockingly and have a captivating and unique story. It was a good book, don’t get me wrong, but it just didn’t stand up to all the hype in the way I had wanted. Because of this, the twists fell a little flat; I was waiting for the huge reveal that just didn’t come for me. The visual descriptions were great, but didn’t’ sweep me away into a fantastical land where anything could happen. It was good, but I think I would have liked it better if I had just plucked it off the shelf and knew nothing about it.
Funny enough, the one thing I thought was really well-done that gets criticised a lot is Scarlett as a character. She starts the story incredibly meek, but is forced to grow and evolve as the plot unfolds. People have been calling her weak and useless. Really? She’s a young woman who has suffered physical, mental, and emotional abuse for most of her life. Of course she’s going to be full of fear and hesitation at doing this crazy thing. I thought Garber really nailed her character and subsequent growth — Scarlett has to give up everything she believes in and the walls she has built over the years in order to participate in Caraval. This made her such an interesting, different, and relatable character. She’s flawed and human in a way that so many heroines in similar books are not.
If you do decide to pick this book up, try to go in as blind as possible. It is a good one with lush writing, vivid descriptions, and interesting world building. It has plenty of twists and turns — it is the book version of ‘trust no one’. Fans of The Night Circus will surely delight in this fantastical novel.
Have you read Caraval? What did you think? I’d love some spoilery comments, I think that this would be an interesting book to discuss.