Review: Caraval

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

 This is definitely a case of purple prose. I understand that part of it is a physical representation of Scarlett seeing emotions, but I would have appreciated a cause to that, or more of an explanation about it at least. I also would have liked to have more more of a reason for their father’s cruelty, I feel like it would have made more sense if he was bad before his wife disappeared too.
I wasn’t as wowed by this magical game as I expected to be, especially with all the rave reviews I saw before this came out. Character development happened all at once, I didn’t really see much gradual self awareness with Scarlett, just all of a sudden she decides she’s going to be her own woman and stop letting other people scare her into obeying. And I also didn’t really like her all that much in general.
One complaint that I agree with has to do with the sibling bond, which was supposed to be the center of the story, but for most of the book it seemed like a very one sided relationship. And even then I was more annoyed with Scarlett’s “I have to find my sister” then reminded of her devotion, it didn’t seem all that sincere. Especially since Caraval was something she’d dreamed about, but she didn’t let herself enjoy it at all. And if she bought into Caraval, she shouldn’t have been worried about her sister once she found out she was part of the game.
As more sinister things are revealed I understood the worry Scarlett felt, however it didn’t unravel in a cohesive way for me. Furthermore, the relationship between Scarlett and Julian seemed a bit forced. They told each other why they were good for each other instead of letting the reader see it. And the similarities in their familial situations at the end seem like an easy way out.
The end in general was too tidy for me. Sisters reunited, girl gets the boy, evil Father and arranged marriage dealt with. Yes there were lots of trials to get to that but then all the emotional repercussions of those events are wiped away. It was entertaining and a bit twisty, keeping you on your toes, but it did not live up to all the hype for me.

 

     

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