Review: Caraval

Yes, I’m reviewing another Young Adult novel.  This time it’s Caraval by Stephanie Garber and I think it’s a timely review since the sequel, Legendary, is scheduled to be released soon – May 29th.

Scarlett has wanted to be part of the legendary Caraval games since she was younger, but this year she is destined to marry and so she puts aside her dream and commits to the arranged marriage her father has secured for her – this is until she receives an invitation to participate in this year’s game.  With a little help and encouragement from her sister Tella, Scarlett is whisked away to the adventure of her lifetime!  But as she arrives in Caraval, she finds her sister has been kidnapped.  She must find her before the game ends in 5 nights or else her sister will disappear forever!  Can Scarlett figure out the clues in time to rescue her sister? Remember, it’s only a game…but dire consequences lie in wait for Scarlett if she fails to secure the win in Caraval.

There is so much more to the story than what I just wrote, but the above paragraph shares what I knew about the book before I read it.  That bit of information was enough to grab my attention and persuade me to pick up the book at my local library.

As soon as I began to read the story about Scarlett, I was drawn into a whole new world.  I liked how the story started out with letters written to Legend from Scarlett throughout the years.  It set up the story well and gave you a little background to the Dragna family.  I found these written letters easily immersed me in the life of Scarlett and in her dream of attending a Caraval game.

The introductory chapters were enough to keep me reading, but what really grabbed my imagination was when Scarlett arrived at Caraval and began her adventure.  The world building here was very unique and Stephanie Garber did a wonderful job of describing the eccentric characters in the game and the confounding rules Scarlett and the other players had to abide by if they wanted to succeed in the game set before them.

Naturally, there was a love interest for Scarlett in the story but it didn’t overpower the overall mystery of the tale unfolding, although, at times it did seem a little outlandish because – spoiler alert – during one scene Scarlett was asked to choose between the life of Julian and the life of her sister.  Scarlett’s indecision didn’t seem realistic…I know it’s not an easy decision, but to almost choose a boy you just met over a sister you grew up with, is a prime example of why a lot of readers are put off by Young Adult novels and the insta-love romances contained within almost every book in this genre – spoiler over. That being said, I didn’t mind the romance aspect of the story, but there were some scenes that were supposed to cause tension that really didn’t do it for me.

Another added storyline was the relationship between the sisters and their father.  It was an abusive relationship, so the Dad was cast as the villain in the story and it rooted the realism aspect of the book since most of it was about Caraval and the wonders and mysteries within.  This relationship also helped propel the urgency surrounding Scarlett’s quest since she not only had to find her sister, but she had to avoid her Dad as well.

In conclusion, I liked this book and I am glad I decided to pick it up.  I do have to say that after reading the book half way, I found it at Barnes & Noble for $6 and I decided to buy it since I was enjoying the book so much which means I liked the story enough to add it to my book collection.  I’m also looking forward to the second book in the series.  I think it’ll be fun to enter the world of Caraval again.

Interested in reading Caraval yourself?  If you are, then I would encourage you to pick it up.  The author did a great job in creating this world and I think you’ll be drawn into the story pretty easily.  It’s a book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys Young Adult books, fantasy, or easy reading escapism books because Caraval is all those rolled up into one.

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