Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Posted On 22 January 2017

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 22 responses

caravalOnce upon a time there were two sisters who lived upon the tiny Isle of Trisda.  Every year the older sister wrote a letter to the man simply known as ‘Master Legend’, begging him to visit their Isle, and every year her letters remained unanswered.  That is until the seventh year when the elder sister having woken in the morning, barely days away from her marriage to a mysterious Count, finally received the long awaited invitations to attend the spectacle known as ‘Caraval’.  Entry to Caraval is by invitation only and the most important thing to remember is that ‘it is only a game!’

Yes, Caraval is told in an almost fairytale style. We have two beautiful sisters who are treated harshly by their tyrannical father.  Their mother disappeared many years ago and their father, a powerful man on the Isle rules over them with an iron rod.  Scarlett and Donatella (or Tella as she is more often known) finally have escape within their grasp, even if that comes in the form of Scarlett marrying a man she knows nothing of it seems to be the only acceptable way that they will ever escape the Island.  Until their golden tickets arrive, announcing the next Caraval spectacle where the winner will be granted one wish. It really does sound too good to be true doesn’t it?

I actually really enjoyed Caraval.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple of reservations, but overall it totally had me at it’s mercy.  I confess that it feels like a very indulgent read in some respects.  There is a certain amount of instalove, which is something I normally find quite irritating and yet it didn’t seem to bother me at all here, and, for two sisters who care so very much about each other I must admit that I didn’t really get a strong feeling of that.  In fairness to the author, Tella spends a good deal of the book missing in action, but even so I think that we maybe didn’t see enough of the two of them together!  And yet, in spite of those reservations I was hooked, so there it is.  The only real reservation I did experience concerned an issue with the ending which was a bit shocking and took me by surprise and that even now I’m not totally sure how I feel about.  But, I think that’s the beauty of this book in many ways – it keeps you thinking because it isn’t at all what it first seems to be.  (Anyway, I bet you’re glad I cleared that up!)

So, why did I really like this.  Well, firstly, the writing.  This story is brimming with beautiful descriptions that bring the whole spectacle to life on the page.  The imagination and creativity in terms of the place created and the magical possibilities within are just amazing.  Caraval itself is a deliciously wicked conundrum.  Nothing is ever as it seems,  roads never lead to where you think, dark is day and light is night, bridges never begin and end at the same place twice, clock shops are shortcuts to wherever and dresses and gowns can be paid for using memories or other strange means.  Secrets and lies and yet more secrets and lies.  Put bluntly I found this a magical read and I was captivated.  On top of that the pacing was excellent and assisted by the tick tock looming and ever-approaching-faster-deadline in which to solve the mystery I found myself almost as desperate as Scarlett for the next clues to be uncovered.

In terms of the characters.  We have the tyrannical father – he was a bit of a cliche and I never fully understood what motivated him to be so cruel but in terms of being the big bad wolf of the piece he definitely fits the bill.  Scarlett, I liked her.  She isn’t a kick ass female and I’d say she spends a lot of time paying attention to her magical attire but I liked that she wasn’t perfect to be honest.  She didn’t really understand the nature of the game being played at Caraval and found it difficult to be duplicitous enough to actually make any real headway. Basically, she makes plenty of mistakes that leave you shaking your head and she’s not above needing some help -although to be honest how much help she received in real terms is negotiable.  Tella, it’s really difficult to say too much about her without giving away plot points and having finished the book with all it’s twists and turns I think my earlier feelings about her may have been a little unfair and need revising because on first impressions she certainly wasn’t my favourite.  All I can say, without giving more away, is that you really do have to read to the end for certain elements to be fully revealed and to have your final lightbulb moment.  I must say that I was pleased to be wrong on a number of occasions in terms of where the author took the story – I just didn’t see a number of the twists at all and the ending really took me by surprise.

Then we have the love interest element. Everything here is not quite as it seems and you never know whether you can trust what you’re reading.  I’m not going to elaborate, even though there is a little bit of instalove I thought it was written in a very subtle way and it certainly didn’t steal the show in fact if I’m going to be a total brazen hussy about it I wouldn’t have minded more of this element as it was well done.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Caraval.  Why surprised?  Well, I sometimes find YA a little hit and miss – especially when I read a book where I have countless questions and not  enough answers.  I didn’t experience this with Caraval.  I was so entranced by the spectacle that I felt at times as though I was experiencing it with Scarlett.  There’s a history both to the show and Master Legend and his beginnings that is woven into the story.  In fairness there’s not a great deal of in depth examination about the magical aspects but personally I didn’t really mind.  Sometimes you question these things and sometimes they just feel acceptable without explanation.

So, on the whole a very enjoyable, well crafted, fairytale style story about two sisters who will surprise not only themselves but also you the reader.




22 Responses to “Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber”

  1. Tammy

    I enjoyed this too, although I wasn’t crazy about it, which makes me sad. I wanted to love it but even though the writing was amazing and the story was magical, there was something missing for me. My review will be posted tomorrow:-)

    • @lynnsbooks

      This one just really caught my attention, I wasn’t overly enamoured with certain elements of the ending which were definitely a bit of a shock! But I did still really enjoy it. I look forward to reading your review.
      Lynn 😀

  2. lipsyy

    I’m glad you liked this one. I’m hoping to get round to it at some point!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was very good. I’ve had a few hit and misses recently with YA but I really enjoyed this one. I hope you like it too.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Both YA and “insta-love” elements would act as deterrents for me, but your review intrigued me – especially what you did *not* say, to avoid spoilers 🙂 And I do love a good challenge now and then, so I might give this one a try.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed this one – it just kept me hooked although even now I still find the ending a little bit of a shock!
      Lynn 😀

  4. sjhigbee

    This sounds a fascinating read – it sounds like it contains some fairly standard elements which are then given a thorough shaking… Thank you for a great review:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      I did really enjoy this one – I have mixed feelings sometimes with YA but this one just really kept me entertained.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        And you have sorely tempted me at a time when my TBR list is growing like Topsy!

      • @lynnsbooks

        I know – these TBRs – one day they will topple over and smother us.
        Lynn 😀

  5. Nathan

    I would like this I think. My relationship with YA is often rocky but I hear such good things here.

    • @lynnsbooks

      My relationship with YA has also been very rocky just recently but I liked this one.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    The recent reviews I’ve seen for this have been more balanced versus the super early hyped reviews, but I think I’ll still enjoy this one a lot. Can’t wait to dive into my copy.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I noticed that some of the earlier reviews seemed to be almost hysterical with glee which did give me pause for though but I did enjoy this.
      Lynn 😀

  7. jessicabookworm

    Even with your few reservations I like the sound of this 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a good read and I would definitely like to read the second book.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Glad you enjoyed this one. 🙂 The concept definitely sounds good.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I did enjoy it – it actually felt a little indulgent – but it hooked me.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Amanda @Cover2CoverMom

    There are so many mixed reviews for this one! I do think that the general consensus is that the world building in this book is top notch!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just really enjoyed the writing and the magic. I had issues but I liked the writing so much that I was hooked.
      Lynn 😀

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    […] Caraval by Stephanie Garber […]

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    […] Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber […]

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