Book Review: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Narrated by Rebecca Soler

Rating: 3 Stars

Published January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books
Summary: Remember, it’s only a game…

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.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
(from Goodreads)

Review: I really loved the narration by Rebecca Soler, so much so that after finishing this book I immediately went to Audible’s website to look up what else they have that she has narrated that I might be interested. I think that’s about the highest compliment you can pay a narrator! I especially loved the way she did Julian’s voice, his accent and the way he calls Scarlett “Crimson” made me just melt. I think a large part of my love for Julian was due to Rebecca Soler’s narrative prowess.

Sadly, I was not as enamored of the book itself as I was of its narration. Part of my problem is probably that I went into reading this book with very high hopes. I adore the idea of a magical circus where the audience participates in the show and anything can happen. There were elements of world building that I really loved, and some of the language was very beautiful. Example: a description of the sky as being “made of melting lemons and burning peaches”. It did venture into some serious purple prose territory a few times, but for the most part the ornate and somewhat overblown descriptions were enjoyable, and matched the overall feel of the book. There was definitely a very Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland sort of feel, with hatters and roses and whimsy aplenty. The plot got kind of convoluted at times, and there were several twists that, rather than being titillating, left me sitting here like “wait… what?”


I also hated Scarlett. It’s hard to love a book when the main character annoys the crap out of you! Scarlett’s main personality points are (1) she loves her sister, (2) she’s annoyingly cautious/fearful while also being stubbornly bullish about her fear being the right way, (3) she apparently experiences emotions in colors, and (4) did I mention she really loves her sister? Like, who ARE you, Scarlett? Why do I care about you? I appreciate that you love your little sister and want to protect her from your completely horrible father, but you need some more facets of your personality than this unrelenting, single-minded focus on your sister. Also, it was really annoying the way she kept jumping to conclusions about things (for a such a cautious person she sure doesn’t have a great process of reasoning things out…) and thinking everyone mysterious or good looking or wearing a top hat MUST be Legend.

Julian I liked a good sight better. He’s full of secrets and mysteries and half-revealed truths, and I felt like I got to know him better despite all of his plot twists and reveals, than ever I did Scarlett (who is the main character and the main focus of the story!) I love the little glimpses you get into Julian’s inner struggle. Which made me like Scarlett even less, because she keeps throwing up these road blocks of fear and indecision, basically shooting herself in the foot over and over again, but next to Julian Scarlett’s struggle and growth just made her look stupid.
Some of the side characters were cute, I liked the descriptions of the fantastical things in Caraval. However, I found myself putting the audiobook on 1.3X speed so the book would just be over already, mostly because I was so sick of listening to Scarlett screw things up, worry, be
indecisive, and describe things as being the color of various emotions. My dislike for Scarlett and her whining was so strong that I almost DNF’d this at about the 25% mark, but Julian kept me going. The ending was a big wah-wah for me, and there’s an epilogue that is supposed to entice you and tease you for the next book. Ehhhh, I probably won’t read that.

Apparently Fox 2000 has already purchased the rights to turn this into a movie, and I can see Tim Burton doing it. I’ll probably see the movie, but I don’t really have any interest in reading the next book in the series.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

  1. Yeah, not so good. I'm currently reading an ARC of By A Charm And A Curse, and so far it's everything I was hoping Caraval would be! So watch for a review of that coming soon. 🙂


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