Remember, it’s only a game…
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
Caraval was one of my highly anticipated reads of 2017, and when I first finished it I didn’t have much to say about it; I found it simply average in every way. But the longer I sat on it and thought about what to say in my review I started to realize just how much I disliked.
To start with.. Scarlett and Tella’s father is abusive, and uses the sisters against each other. By that I mean if Tella does something wrong he’ll “punish” Scarlett and vice versa. I don’t agree with using abuse as a plot device to drive the main characters forward in the story, and what makes it worse is that the father was nothing but an abusive villain. That was his only purpose in the story, to be a one dimensional antagonist. Scarlett and Tella were no better, they too felt one dimensional. Scarlett was ridiculously naive and Tella was unbelievable as a sister in ways I can’t get into without using spoilers.
Along with one dimensional characters, and unnecessary abuse I wasn’t a fan of Caraval itself. Caraval was pitched as a comparison to The Night Circus and it failed miserably to even come close to anything remotely similar to The Night Circus. For starters it wasn’t even a circus it was more a magical town/ island, and the magic came across as mere parlor tricks. As for the “remember it’s just a game” tagline.. where exactly was the game during these 400+ pages? There was very little (basically none) to do with the game and even fewer players involved.
Overall I was very disappointed in Caraval, and highly doubt I’ll continue with the series.. duology? Whatever it ends up being I think this is where I leave it unfortunately. If you’d like a review that is more detailed and probably said a lot better than I did I highly recommend checking out Thoughts on Tomes Gripe Review. Sam does a much better job at explaining all the things I didn’t like about Caraval.