by Stephanie Garber
To be published
on January 31, 2017
by Flatiron Books
Source: eARC for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father. When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organizer, Legend. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.My take: Confession: I went into Caraval with a lot of trepidation. I don't read a lot of fantasy, I'm not a fan of magical realism, and *whispers* I was the one person I know who DNF'd Night Circus. I tried a printed copy, then the audiobook, and just wasn't feeling it.
Luckily, I enjoyed Caraval more than I expected. I do like books with a fairy tale vibe and to me this read more like a fairy tale than fantasy, with a lot of fairy tale tropes woven in. What it also reminded me of was Alice in Wonderland -- in Caraval, Scarlett gets thrown into a world that doesn't make sense, where things -- and people -- are not always what they seem. That part of the story was interesting and keeps you feeling a little off-balance the whole time. I was certain that I'd figured out at least one of the major twists in this book...
A few things about Caraval were definitely a mixed bag for me. The writing seemed simplistic for YA in some parts, but was really lovely in others. I wasn't crazy about the main character, Scarlett. I'm also the oldest of two sisters and a rule follower, so you'd think I'd relate to her, but Scarlett's stodgy, fearful nature often got on my nerves. The romance was classic Gothic/old school bodice ripper, with sweet, innocent Scarlett falling for the last man she should, then spending endless hours wondering if she can trust him or if he was who he seemed. Because Scarlett was such a goody-goody, her constant guilt about being attracted to this guy was a large part of why I often wanted to smack her.
That said, the ending of the book was interesting and unexpected, and it looks like there will be a companion book about Scarlett's younger sister, Donatella. Impulsive, self-centered Tella wasn't my favorite character, either - did these two have to be such stereotypic opposites? -- but I'd give her story a chance.
Have you read Caraval? Plan to? Let me know what you think in comments.