Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thrillingly creeptastic read, but not in a horror way. Have you ever read something and it just weighed on your mind for the rest of the day not just the characters and the story but the hint of a deeper meaning that might have been hidden underneath the tale? I felt like this book was riding on the line of profound in its lessons. As I watched the FMC, Scarlet, throw away some of her inhibitions in order to actually not just be alive but experience life even though it was not quite pretty… Whew this was an intense ride! I debated for a few whether or not to give this 5 stars… that’s how much it messed me up lol. I decided on 4 ish + stars because the romance aspect didn’t quite wow me, in fact if I were to break this up, this particular area might have only gotten like a 2 or 3 from me personally. This book was quite the emotional roller coaster with its intense twists and turns, ups and downs, and even upside downs. The illusion factor, very “Twighlight Zone”, and being right with the character not knowing what is really real was mind blowing and made for a really riveting read.
Scarlet our FMC has never left her home island. Having grown up with an extremely overbearing, controlling, and abusive father, her sister, Tella, and her have dreamed about running away. Hearing stories of the Caraval from her grandmother made her yearn to see the magic, and for many years of her childhood she wrote to the master, Master Legend, and begged him to bring his players to her island. In one last later she tells him she is due to be married, and tells him not to come. To her amazement she receives a response along with tickets for her to visit the games. But how can they leave, her father will ruin her hope of freedom through marriage if she disobeys him now… In a crazy scheme her sister takes the decision from her and has Julian kidnap Scar and abscond with her to the island for the games. Unfortunately in the process they lose Tella. Now, Scarlet is in a desperate rush to find Tella, all the while participating in these games where anything could be real or unreal. Scarlet must face her fears, solve the clues to save Tella, and maybe even give up everything or she may lose everything to the game.
This book had a real “life lessons” feel at times with the facing of the fears, and I was given pause multiple times to contemplate the profound message hidden underneath some of the comments and banter.
“You’re too quick to dive into fear,” Nigel said. “What you think of as fate only applies to the past. Our futures are only predictable because as creatures of this world we are predictable.”
World building wise I really thought the author did an amazing job of dragging us through this world of illusion. In my mind I can’t quite work out if it would be harder to create something realistic or something the reader knows is not to be taken as real and yet feels so real. plays Twilight Zone theme song in the background One of the more interesting things the author incorporates in her games is the asking of questions as payment… to buy something you must tell your biggest fear, or biggest desire. In a way this forces a character to be honest with themselves and allows you as the reader to get to truly know a character despite what they are telling themselves via inner monologues. Very clever and more personal in some ways.
“I think I’ve made a mistake.”…. “Then make it into something better.”
As for the romance factor, though Scarlet is undeniably and annoyingly drawn to Julian, she also has some childhood fantasies she is clinging to. The relationship interest between Scarlet and Julian is mostly them attempting to annoy one another. It lacked chemistry for me, and maybe even intensity in emotion.. other than their annoyance for one another. I just wasn’t honestly feeling them.
I can’t wait to dive into the rest of this series and see what is next. It seems as though we have closed a door on Scarlet’s story and are on to greener pastures.. maybe.. I really look forward to the next game… I’m onto you Mr. Legend…. I got your number now!
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