Author: Stephanie Garber

Grade: B

Caraval falls squarely into the like a summer movie category for me. Entertaining. Fun. Overhyped. I told myself at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t going to go for those totally hyped books where I mostly wind up reading them and saying, “That was it?” Although I must admit the cover on this one sold me not a little bit 🙂

“Remember, it’s only a game…”

Caraval is about Scarlett Dragna who lives with her younger sister Tella under the rule of an abusive father. When she was a child she dreamt about playing the infamous Caraval- a traveling circus/carnival like show that’s one big game of magic. Now she dreams of marrying the Count her father has sold her off to and saving her sister. Of course this is the moment Legend, the game master, finally invites her to play.

It’s a great hook and the game itself is fairly interesting. Legend has his own legend. You meet a couple of the performers here and there and it’s full of some fun magic like a dress that changes with Scarlett’s mood. (I love the idea of magic outfits. So little work! You don’t have to do anything! But then the other part of me is like what if your mind wanders off and thinks- gee, I’d like to be naked now!)

I’ve digressed.

Caraval seems like something people in the real world would jump at the chance to do. So in terms of it’s fame or what people are willing to do in the game and the prices they have to pay, I totally bought that.

One of the big selling points on this book (besides the pretty) was that it was about sisters and sisterhood and yes, that’s true to a certain extent. Scarlett’s purpose is mostly Tella. Yet the two sisters are barely together in the book and you really come to question how much Scarlett even knows about Tella. A whole big portion of this book is about Scarlett’s growing relationship with Julian.

It’s a lot of overwrought and doesn’t he smell like wonderful things and tasting each other’s blood even as she’s fighting her attraction to him. I think maybe this is my own personal taste showing here because not only does she not really know Julian what she comes to know about him (mainly) is that he’s a liar. But hey, that’s love? I do wish the emphasis had remained on the sisters and Julian stayed more in the background.

I’ll admit that the game and the outcome kept me guessing which was great. On the other hand the ending felt too fast and exposition filled. Caraval sets up a second book though I think it also provides enough closure that if you don’t wish to read on already you probably won’t feel compelled to.

Recommend: Yes. I was disappointed in some elements and I wish elements had been stronger but it was still an enjoyable read.

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