Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: 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 of, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.”
Review: Apparently the “thing to do” these days is write about fantastical carnivals/magical competitions (see: The Night Circus, The Crown’s Game). And as much as this seems like something I would like, I’ve once again been disappointed. Caraval is my least favorite rendition so far. Like similar novels, Caraval did succeed in creating a really fun, fantastical world. I looked forward to Scarlett’s adventures out into the Caraval village each day, as she navigated through enchanted areas and visited magical bazaars. However, it quickly became apparent that although Garber was good at writing descriptors, she was unsuccessful at developing her characters. The prose was also chock full of odd metaphors.
“Somehow the battered space still managed to smell like Tella. Sharp molasses and wild dreams.”
I used to love this kind of writing growing up because it seemed creative and illustrious. But the more I encounter these metaphor-ridden books (see also The Star-Touched Queen, which is the most egregious example I’ve read to date), the less I enjoy the writing. What do wild dreams smell like? Scarlett was also constantly thinking, “I shouldn’t be doing _____, I should be trying to rescue Tella.” Literally every other thought she had revolved around how she wasn’t trying hard enough to find her sister. It became increasingly tedious throughout the novel. Lastly, I found the plot, particularly at the end, to be confusing and disjointed. It was hard to fully grasp the motives of the different characters, and many of them were added in last minute, which contributed to my growing confusion. I have no interest in reading the second novel in this series, which is set for release in 2018.