Series: Caraval, #1
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Length: 407 pages | 10 hours 20 minutes
Source: Won from Goodreads #FirstReads
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.
This book had some hits and some misses for me, so for the sake of a quick review I’m just going to list them out.
I really enjoyed:
- The setting, which definitely felt magical and otherworldly, with an interesting juxtaposition of Renaissance Italy politics and rustic charm and Victorian fashion.
- Scarlett’s unique perception- she’s a bit of a synesthete, seeing emotion as colors. I’ve never read this from a character before, and gave a sense of how vibrant the world is to Scarlett, despite being abused and isolated.
- Scarlett’s fiance. Not to give too much away, but he made a nice midway point between “not exactly a gentleman” and “not exactly a villain”- rather close to what I assume a lot of people would actually be.
- The twists. I did struggle with Scarlett’s utter idiocy (see below) but it serves a purpose.
Not only is she growing as a character and learning to take risks and trust herself and thinking analytically instead of just reacting, it allows for some fun twists.
- The cover, which is prismatic and gorgeous.
I didn’t so much enjoy:
- Scarlett’s father never felt like a fleshed-out character, but some kind of bogeyman. His reasons for abusing his daughters is explained from Scarlett’s perspective, but since she’s a flawed narrator, I wanted to see a bit of what must have been a complicated and self-justified logic from him. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and he’s just a bully.
- Sometimes Scarlett was SO DUMB. She did grow, and it’s totally justified, but there were a few naive moments where I just had to put the book down because I wanted to shake her. It disconnected me from caring about anything else, plot-wise.
- I didn’t feel like Donatella was fully realized. Definitely Scarlett’s perception of her isn’t fully the truth, but most of the time she was more plot device than character. Given the cliffhanger ending, this might be totally rectified in book 2.
Overall, I liked it. I will likely pick up book 2, because I’m curious about what happens next and I want to get to know Donatella (who, to be honest, feels much more “me”). And because I want more Julian. I recommend it for fans of fantasy YA with a dash of clean romance.