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.
So I apparently really like books sent in circuses and carnivals and slightly weird placed like that? As my boss said, thats a pretty specific genre to read, but thankfully, there are plenty of books out there at the moment.
I count Caraval as one of those books, because despite it being set in an almost-town (I mean, it is pretty big) it travels around, has a head dude who makes all the rules and games, is full of magic and done for entertainment.
The thing about Caraval is that… the idea was brilliant, it was interesting but I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I can’t even put my finger on why- maybe because everything was good. But not amazing. It doesnt stand out from the crowd, to me.
The book design was beautiful. Not just the cover (though really, the covers- both US and UK- and just amazing) but the inside as well. In many books, if there are letters sent around to different characters, it’s just written in italics, but with this book, they were all styles to look like letters, complete with their own sets of handwriting, which made it slightly more personal and pretty.
The plot itself really interested me, along with the whole cast of characters. Main Character Scarlett, while annoying at times, is loyal and interesting, and completely different to her sister, Tella. It was nice to see a sibling friendship where they actually liked and protected each other.
The plot itself was what kept me going, despite the fact that many of the twists and turns were easy to guess early on. There was just enough hint of more that kept me interested in reading- like why Legend had dragged certain people into the game, and why he was doing it all anyway. And I’m interested enough in that to want to read the next book.
The problem was… everything else just let me down. The romance, I thought, was forced and predictable. I liked Julian, but I got annoyed that everything was about liking her- I thought they would have been better if they had stayed friends, especially when I didn’t get any feelings off the book itself. For a good love story, the reader has to feel it too, has to fall in love with the Love Interest as the Main does. And yeah, Julian was okay, but I didn’t care. Not about him, not about her, not about them together and I really really didn’t care when one particular twist happened. I actually had to read the page twice to make sure I hadn’t missed something because I just didn’t care.
And then when the next meant-to-be *gasp* moment happened, pages later, I cared even less. I had been reading this whole book waiting for Scarlett to find her sister and this big thing happens and I was left like… meh.
It was more the characters than the writing- because the writing was great. It was because the characters didn’t develop at all. There was no incentive to care about them, or if they all got out the story alive.
So I will be reading the next book- because I do want to see what happens and if the author improves, but I’ll be reading it for the world and the magic much more than I will be for any of the characters.