Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Scarlett and her sister Tella live in constant fear of their abusive father. Scarlett is extremely protective of her sister despite Tella's wild energy and hedonistic tendencies. For years, Scarlett wrote to Master Legend about his magical game Caraval, a fantastical and world famous event, to see if he would bring it to her hometown. She finally gives up due to her impending nuptuals that will finally free her and her sister from her father's abuse even though she doesn't know who her future husband will be or what kind of person he is. However, Master Legend sends her a letter and three tickets so they can attend. She wants to stay because she has accepted reality, but her sister has other plans. With the help of roguish sailor Julian, Tella kidnaps her and takes her to Caraval, which proves to be much darker and more real than she ever imagined.

Caraval is a magical book with harsh realities mixed in. Scarlett is a character grounded in reality. After the disappearance of her mother, the continued abuse from her father, and the serious threat to her sister, much of her love for the whimsical and fantastical went away. Her thoughts are constantly running through ways to keep Tella safe and out of trouble. When she gets to Caraval, Tella is missing and Scarlett quickly finds out that the whole game is based around finding her. It's surreal to have so many people looking after the same thing without the same emotional attachments. The game is so much more real from the start for her. The world of Caraval is beautiful and written so lyrically. Stores have items that do the impossible like see the future. Payments are just as bizarre, ranging from secrets to days of your life to deepest desires to the last lie told. The world building is thin because Scarlett has no idea how any of this works or why. It bothered me a little, but the descriptions were phrased so wonderfully that it was easily overlooked.

Some aspects of the book didn't work for me as well. Scarlett has a one track mind that looks for her sister, guesses that every man under the sun is Master Legend, and swoons over Julian while she denies her feelings. These three thoughts are repeated so often that it becomes predictable and boring at times. She makes some horrible decisions that go completely against her oft repeated goal and it's frustrating to read. Some days seem completely wasted for no reason at all. Tella was insufferable and selfish through the whole thing, so I didn't really care about the object of the game. Master Legend disappoints when he appears and I wasn't very impressed by Julian, who is supposed to be a typical swoon worthy bad boy with a heart of gold. Most of the characters fall flat and don't really develop at all. The plot twists are inelegantly revealed and the last half of the book didn't live up to the expectations of the first half. Deaths are used for inept emotional depth and then aren't even permament, which is a trope I hate so very much.

Overall, Caraval has quite a few good ideas and descriptive language, but twist after twist and repetitive thoughts and situations make the book fall apart by the end. The characters stagnate about half way through. The ending doesn't even answer some significant questions as a ploy to get the reader to pick up the next book. The lack of a magic system did annoy by the end with some of these non-deaths, so I hope it will be more defined as the series goes on. I have what I need from the series and I'm not enthused to see what happens next unless I see tons of rave reviews. The book didn't live up to the hype and proves to be a lackluster version of The Night Circus.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

No comments: