Caraval Book Review
Updated: Dec 28, 2020
We heard so many good things about this book and it took us awhile to read it, but we are so glad we did!
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Scarlett has written to Legend, the Caraval master, asking him to bring the Caraval to her island. Caraval is an extravagant game filled with magical performers that help the participants as they compete to win the prize, which changes every year. The one year that Scarlett requests that Legend not write back, but he does. In his letter Legend sends Scarlett three tickets to his popular game, one for her, one for her sister, and one for Scarlett’s fiance. Scarlett has never met her fiance, but she has exchanged many love letters with him so she feels as though she knows him. Scarlett is hesitant about going to Caraval, but Tella, her sister convinces her to go to escape their abusive father, Tella explains that she knows a young sailor who would be willing to help them travel to Caraval. Scarlett goes, but only with the promise that they will be back in time for her wedding.
Upon arriving at Caraval, Scarlett gets stranded with Julian, the sailor. When Scarlett makes it to the entrance of Caraval, she discovers that her sister has been kidnapped for the sake of the game. With Julian’s help, Scarlett must put everything she has into finding her sister and win the game.
Scarlett is the main heroine in this book. She starts off as the timid, fearful, and practical girl who wants nothing more than her sister to be safe. We learn that her greatest fear is her father and that she wants to protect Tella from him and she thinks that marrying the count will give them both the protection that they need. Over the course of the book, Scarlett grows into a more brave and daring person, she learns to take risks, be more independent, and care more about herself. Scarlett might have been our favorite character, she seemed like the only sane person in this elaborate book of deception. She has a healthy fear of things at the end of the book as well as having a normal sense of curiosity. It was heartbreaking to see her witness both the death of Julian and Tella, but it was almost worse seeing her internal battles as she tried to decipher what was real and what was fake.
Tella wasn't around for the majority of the book, due to her being kidnapped at the beginning for the game, but she still had a major effect on both the characters and the plot. Tella was Scarlett’s motivation to compete in Caraval which was the entire plot of the book. Tella’s actions are what caused the entire book to happen. She also is the one who got Julian involved in the whole game, even though he was a performer Tella is the one who convinced her sister to go with them. Although Tella was not in the book as much as we would have liked, she still left her impact on the book.
Julian, oh Julian, we were DEVASTATED to discover that he was merely a performer working for Legend. However, it did make his choices throughout the book make more sense, why he was so secretive, why he disappeared so much, and why he wasn’t all there. When he died, we were just as heart broken as Scarlett. We would have loved to read more about the real Julian, but we feel like there was more of him laced through his character than he let on. He is perfect for Scarlett, he helps her grow as a person and was the very protection that she needed during the game.
Our Favorite Parts
By far, the best part of this book was Scarlett and Julian’s relationship. There were so many sweet moments between these two characters that it was hard to pick which parts were our favorite. There is one part where Julian literally gives up a day of his life for her! Is that not romantic? Then he goes after the guy who stole her earrings that were left to her by her mother after he saw how upset she was. It was hard to see Scarlett try to cope with the fact that most of what she thinks she knows about Julian is a lie, but we can rest assured knowing that he stayed with her during the game on his own volition instead of leaving like he was instructed to do. Either way, we are excited to see these two characters grow in the next books!
Another part of the book we liked was how well Stephanie Garber was able to depict the scenery. More often than not, it is hard to imagine exactly what the author is trying to describe, especially in books that are more detail oriented. However, we were easily able to figure out where the characters were in relation to what was around them because they would go back to familiar locations and the description was consistent every time.
Finally, we loved the ending of this book. We were shocked to learn that almost everything was fake! We were right there with Scarlett when she was struggling to return to reality. She had just watched her sister and Julian both die and then come back to life, that is stressful rough as is along with everything else she went through in the book. We think that this book ended with the perfect amount of closure along with enough intrigue to inspire us to read the next book.
What Would We Want Improved?
It was hard to think of anything we would want improved with this book because we loved it so much, but after some deliberation, we think that it was kind of disappointing that we never actually met Legend. I’m sure we will later on in the books, but when the whole book has led up to finding Tella and Legend and then we never actually met him, we were slightly let down. (just slightly.) I'm sure that Legend will make his grand entrance in one of the next books and we can't wait to see how he is introduced.
We also think that we would have liked to learn more about Caraval and its past, but it seemed like the end of the book was set up for us to learn more about that in the sequel. It is always hard to decide what we would want to change about a book when it is in a series because there is still more to the story, but as far as this book goes, we were very pleased with everything.
***Rest is Spoiler Free***
We would rate this book a solid 4.5 out of 5. It wasn't perfect but we really liked it and can't wait to read the next one. We loved the character development and thought that the author did an excellent job describing Caraval, especially because it was supposed to be so detailed. Overall, we really enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it for anyone who likes YA fantasy books with the slightest bit of mystery.