Caraval was on my TBR list for SO LONG I can’t tell you how excited I was for it. I got it in an Owlcrate box and was so happy because honestly, I needed this book. “It’s like the Night Circus!” they said. “You’ll love it!” they said.
And I did. Ish. But not in the way that I was led to believe I would.
This is the book equivalent of that house in your town.
You know, the beautiful, old, beginning-to-fall-down house. The one that’s huge and, with a boatload of money and years of work, would look like a house out of a movie. Possibly rivaling Gatsby’s house.
You know that there are stories in those walls, and you know that some of them are happy, some are sad, but all have this kind of haunting quality about them that you just can’t put your finger on. When you’re dared one summer night by your friends to go in, just for a minute, you all laugh, but you can’t find that laughter when you’re walking up to the front door. You crawl in through the broken window and find…
There’s nothing in the house.
No floors, it looks like there are at least three stories, but when you look up the only ceiling is the roof.
There are no rooms.
Just walls and windows.
That is this book.
There’s so much they could have done, so much that could have happened, but none of it did. And the structure was there. The island that hosts Caraval is amazing. Imagine with me, if you will, an entire island that is basically the Night Circus incarnate, a living, breathing Cirque de Reves. Buildings that have secret passages through massive clocks, dress shops that sell dresses that change with your mood, a book shop that creates the story as you’re reading (this one wasn’t actually in the book, but it totally could have been).
The island is amazing. The island could have a series all its own. I’m sure it would take several books to explore all its secrets. But we don’t get to.
I think the fault is on the characters.
Or, really, one of them.
The story focuses on two sisters, Scarlett and Tess, who want to get away from their abusive father. The girls have dreamed of seeing the Caraval ever since they were children listening to stories from their grandmother, and one summer they decide to run away and find it.
When they get there, Tess gets kidnapped and that’s as far into the story as I’m going, but also I would like to state, for the record, that she was the wrong sister to get taken.
If Tess had been the main character I think that the story would have gone a lot differently. There would have been more genuine excitement, and we would have gotten more of this marvelous island that Stephanie Garber created.
Scarlett is a fine girl, I’m sure. She’s sweet and caring, and would never forgive herself if something happened to her baby sister Tess, but really it’s clear from the beginning that Tess doesn’t need anyone’s help. Not really.
Nevertheless, Scarlett embarks on an epic adventure to get Tess back, but half the time is spent worrying. What if she does this and something bad happens? What if Tess left on purpose because she doesn’t know how much Scarlett worries about her? What if this was Tess’s plan all along and Scarlett was never meant to find her?
There’s so much time spent worrying about small things (like Scarlett spends actual chapters worrying about her dress) that she doesn’t fully invest herself in finding Tess. Even though she says that that is the thing she wants most in the world, she tends to get distracted by little nonsense things.
Then there’s the romance.
It just…it still doesn’t make any sense to me.
So this guy, Julian, helps the girls leave the island they grew up on without their father finding out, and he sticks with Scarlett through the whole ordeal of finding her sister.
Scarlett could not like Julian less, ever, and then, somehow, somewhere, she decides she’s in love with him. There’s actually almost no build up of this romance. None. Like, one page she’s saying how much she doesn’t like him and the next she’s thinking about how she might love him.
It just all felt very forced to me. Like someone said that Scarlett had to develop feelings for Julian and even the author didn’t want her to, but half-heartedly made it happen anyway.
I’m absolutely, 146% going to be reading the sequel. The last couple of chapters of this book sold me on the second one. I’m really hoping that there’s going to be some kind of Sarah J. Maas sorcery that happens here because the teaser for the next book was amazing!
I really didn’t hate this book. I actually enjoyed it a ton. The worldbuilding and the whole concept of Caraval were amazing, as was the backstory for why it was created. Just if Scarlett would have been a little less…Scarlett, I would have adored this book as much as I should have.