I’m sorry this book was so hyped. Most people I know went into it with super high expectations, and I feel like they didn’t really enjoy it because of it.
If you haven’t been properly introduced yet, let me tell you. Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a YA fantasy novel about two sisters playing a magical carnival game in order to win a wish. The master of Caraval, a mysterious guy called Legend, has personally invited Scarlett and her sister Tella to play this year. And the game starts just a few days before Scarlett’s arranged wedding.
Caraval is not an epic adventure. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the best fantasy novel of the year. But it’s an enjoyable and magical journey. It delivers exactly what it promises, no more and no less. I seriously have no idea why there was so much hype surrounding it, but take this as a warning:
It doesn’t live up to the hype.
It’s fun and magical. There’s this magical travelling carnival (and what do you call a carnival that travels in caravans???) Caraval. The Master of Caraval is surrounded by legends -he’s actually called Legend – and people believe that he can really grant a wish to anyone who wins his game. I liked this premise because it’s simple: it’s a magical game. And I think that’s really fun! There is not a kingdom to be saved or a revolution to be lead, just an eccentric magical carnival that is so weird it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. Also, there’s the possibility that the magic isn’t even real, since Legend is known for his great performances and hidden tricks.
- It’s a fast paced mystery. To win Caraval this year, Scarlett must solve a mystery. She also needs to find her sister, Tella, who got lost before the show. I finished the book in a few hours because it was such a light and fast read. It was not a detailed world but I didn’t mind that, since going kinda blind was part of the charm. Also, the ‘performers’ inside that magical carnival were all odd and sometimes a bit scary, so I never knew what to expect, which added to the mystery. It just had a couple of twists, though, so don’t expect a lot of surprises.
- Yes, instant love again. That kind of romance shouldn’t exist anymore. I’ll just tell you that the whole book happens in like five days and in that time the main couple FALLS IN LOVE. UGH. I won’t ever like a romance like that unless it’s Snow White or Cinderella or any other kids movie with a very limited time to portray a normal relationship.
- The prose was too much, too purple. First, Scarlett happens to assign a color to every emotion or feeling, all the time. If someone is sad, or angry, or if she feels nervous or scared, she will explain it by naming a bunch of colors swirling around. For example:
“He tasted like midnight and wind, and shades of rich brown and light blue. Colors that made her feel safe and guarded.”
- It also bothered me that the main male character was either super sexualized or so extremely attractive that Scarlett couldn’t control her thoughts about him. But everything about that guy was muscles this and muscles that.
“Julian’s chest brushed her back, and when it did, every muscle was hard and rigid…” – Imagine the same quote a dozen times but with slightly different words. That’s everything you need to know about Julian.
- Honestly, I could have loved this book, but the forced romance kinda ruined it. Even if I pretended that wasn’t ‘real love’ but just attraction, it wouldn’t work. I’m okay with sexual tension between characters that just met, but sometimes that’s not realistic and authors shouldn’t force it (I mean, I wouldn’t be thinking about a guy’s muscles if my sister went missing the same day). I still had fun reading it and enjoyed it -even the corny parts-, but I can already tell it won’t be in my top 10 this year.
- You are looking for a YA novel with light/moderate fantasy
- You want to read a fast romance in a carnival-esque setting
- You like to read ‘over-hyped’ books to see what is all about
- You are looking for an eccentric/odd kind of magic