Magical fun or a magical dud?



Caraval by Stephanie Garber

2/5 stars

For a book that promised a magical good time, I was left feeling more confused than enthralled.

Guys, this book just did not cut it for me.

The premise of this story sounds incredible two sisters, Scarlett and Tella caught up in an epic game where magic reigns and not everything is what it seems. Tella’s been taken by Legend, the Caraval’s ringleader essentially, and Scarlett must find her to win the game and a wish. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Caraval! Sounds pretty exciting right? Except Caravel, with all its high stakes and mystery, left me…bored.

Caraval did not end up seeming as magical to me as it was described. And though Garber has some pretty interesting magical concepts- a dress the changes itself, bargains where you may end up losing days from your life- it just wasn’t fantastical enough to impress me. Caraval’s world is like a less imaginative copy of the world in Alice in Wonderland. Speaking of worlds, outside of the game of Caraval, there wasn’t much world-building. Nothing is really explained or described about the place from which Scarlett and Tella come from except that people apparently dress in what sounds like nineteenth-century clothing and that there is some sort of class system (there’s a Count in this story). The lack of world-building left a big gap in this book that was hard to ignore.

As for characters, the dynamic between Scarlett and Tella had interesting potential, but there is no growth or change in their relationship. Scarlett is the serious, more responsible sister while Tella is wild and impulsive. They love each other and there isn’t any real conflict or anything deeper that the reader can delve into.

The romance in this story was nice, and that’s it. Not exhilarating or heart-pounding. Just, nice. Again, nothing deep or substantial about the relationship between Scarlett and Julian, nothing memorable.

What drove me nuts reading this book was the way Scarlett kept describing everything in terms of colors. Her emotions, Julian’s emotions, everything and anything! This may have been an intentional aspect of Scarlett, but it came across as a huge and pointless nuisance to me. Also, some of the mysteries in this book were actually pretty predictable and all the revelations in the ending were too rushed, chaotic, and confusing.

There were some unanswered questions left at the conclusion. Though I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped, there was still enough about this story that will have me reading the sequel to see what happens next.




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