Caraval was incredibly hyped to me and I was looking forward to it. I don’t read many circus books, but I own a few of them and Caraval is one of them!
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.
The world building was great in Caraval. I loved this manipulation of the idea of things not being real. Can we trust anyone in this world or even ourselves? I loved this idea of sacrificing secrets or wishes for items. It makes sense to me that magic demands such an intimate sacrifice. Because of that I really loved the world building and the whole idea of the manipulation of reality. We’re never really sure what’s going on, what’s real, and what is a trick. This sense of the unknown made reading a fast paced experience of adventure.
While I love sister books, seriously they’re my kryptonite, I had some issues with Scarlet. I loved how devoted Scarlet was to her sister and her sister’s safety. Because her father is an abusive trash bag, Scarlet and her sister are motivated to leave their home. In different ways, each of them are searching for an escape that can help the other, but their differences in opinion lands them in Caraval. It was heart breaking how Scarlet suffers from the PTSD of her father.
But for me, Scarlet spends too much of the book telling us how much she loves her sister. We understand she loves her sister, but we don’t need her to tell us all the time. She can show us, but it got repetitive to hear it all the time. Even until the end, I was craving some more depth to Scarlet than just her being torn between her own desires and her love for her sister. I wanted her to really experience some soul searching character growth and we didn’t quite get there.
I’ll still continue the series because I’m intrigued by the backstory and Tella, but I just wasn’t as in love with Caraval as I hoped. Find Caraval on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.