Review – Caraval, Stephanie Garber

In my previous ‘Want to Read Wednesdays’ post I talked about this book and said ‘I’m willing to get very excited about this one’. Was it worth hyping myself up?

Pretty much.

I’m rather pleased with myself. I’ve been burned before so I was wary of getting my hopes up but this was actually a really lovely young adult novel. I was worried it was going to feel like a half-arsed Night Circus but I think it stood up alone and carved out a new place in my bookshelf.

Let’s look at what is often the downfall of a young adult novel, the protagonist. Scarlett was a welcome surprise, while she wasn’t a total badass, I didn’t find myself despising all of her life choices which often happens with ‘damaged’ heroines. She thinks similarly to the way I think, completely aware of the practicalities of situations and what the most rational response ought to be, while fighting the fanciful, dramatic side of her personality.

What I might have appreciated would have been a longer set up of the relationship between the two sisters, I felt like the only bond between them was their abusive father and that the friendship and loyalty between the two could have been better set out, not that I didn’t believe Scarlett’s loyalty to her sister, but the plot might have been a shade more understandable if just a little bit more time had been given to that relationship. It is possible that the sequel will explore this theme more – here’s hoping.

The love interest too, was a welcome non-awful character. I won’t spoil it but he’s nuanced, he’s hot as hell, but he’s also a human being. He makes you sigh but more out of happiness than the sighs of exasperation that often come from young adult romantic heroes.

The plot is fun, the setting reminded me a bit of that moment of Spirited Away with all the food carts for the spirits, a film I would most definitely recommend if you haven’t seen it yet. But it has that essence of the fantastical without being so fanciful that you can’t picture it in your mind. It has that, slightly creepy but you would still totally go there feeling, I get the same thing with Wonderland, it is undoubtably a bad place to be in the long run but you’ll hop down the first rabbit hole you find all the same.

This definitely works as a stand alone novel, in fact if you ignore the last page or so it works completely alone, which does worry me a little with regards to the follow on novel, where is it going to go?

Garber has crafted a new world, which I look forward to exploring further. There are a plethora of twists and turns, not all of which come as a complete shock if I’m totally honest, but some of them did make me gasp. It’s a page turner, it’s a fun read, it will, if you let it, transport you out of your own world into the magic of Caraval.

But remember, it’s only a game.


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