Caraval by Stephanie Garber

If you’re looking for nonsense and plot-twists, Caraval is the book for you.

Themes: fantasy, romance, mystery, magic, young adult

The synopsis

Caraval – a giant game taking place only once a year – has been Scarlett’s only glitter of hope against her father’s abuses for years. But this year she must marry in order to give her and her sister Tella a new life and so give up her dream of participating in this game. However, she finally receives the long-waited invitation and flees to Caraval’s isle with her sister and a mysterious sailor. As they arrived, Tella is kidnapped by Legend, Caraval’s master and the game becomes Scarlett’s quest to find her sister before another one does. And she’ll have to remember all along that it’s just a game…

The review

We meet Scarlett and Tella on their little isle as they suffer the constant abuses of their father, an issue I found well adressed with the impacts it have on different people according to their personnalities. And when you met him, you can just feel disgust for a man as violent and cruel as he is. Soon, we leave the isle with the sisters for Caraval where the worldbuilding of the book really begins. Supported by a rather beautiful writing, we discover a colourful world made of magic and illusions. This was one of my favourite element since it reminded me of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Both worlds submerge you with flashy colours, magic, unexplicable elements and a lot of nonsense. In this place, magic is everywhere and contributesin creating an enchanting world (I wish I had Scarlett’s dress). What spoiled this discovery was the use of metaphors which were a bit too much sometimes.

As we go on with the plot, we realise that the setting can’t be trust and so are the people. The characters can’t trust each others because of the lies, mysteries and even madness evolving around them and the reader is put in the same position. It’s even worse for us since we are mislead by both the characters and the plot. It allows the creation of multiple plot-twists, so much I wondered how the author would succeed in packing the story in so few pages (the ebook version has 290 pages). We end up doubting this is all just a game, as the performers like to repeat to Scarlett.

Talking about Scarlett… Well, she’s the main reason I didn’t give the novel full stars. She’s just boring, stupid and naive. I understand she fears everything because of her father but she just keeps on pitying herself and blaming others for her mistakes (particularly poor Julian, the sailor). And when it’s not her fault she takes the blame! When it comes to decisions, she’s just irrationnal. When it’s obvious she can get a clue she does nothing to obtain it and when everyone tells her not to do something she does it anyway. She keeps forgetting it’s a game and that the idea of a game is to play (even more when the winner’s prize is your own sister) and in the same idea doesn’t think about an important clue/element she just obtained or heard. Finally, her love for her sister is great but being reminded of it almost each sentence is just annoying. I would have preferred to have Tella telling the story, which is why I’m intrigued by the sequel.

I don’t have much to say about the other characters apart from the fact that the author is skilled at showing us the worst of human nature, notably with the other players. The one that intrigued me the most was Legend as I couldn’t have a final opinion about his personnality and goals.

In brief: a very good book with a very complex, interesting plot and an amazing worldbuilding. I loved it except for the characters and romance who could have been much better. If you like nicely written YA fantasy with a nonsense plot, a lot of magic and plot-twists, give it a go.

My rating: 4/5

Trigger warnings: parental abuse, suicide

4 thoughts on “Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s