Sunday, 26 March 2017

Careview: A Review of Caraval

Caraval is the debut novel from Stephanie Garber. It is a novel with incredible flair, especially for a debut. The protagonist, Scarlett Dragna, has always dreamed of going to Caraval (sort of a cross between a fair and an escape room-style game on a massive scale) along with her sister, Tella. Once they get there, Tella is taken, to be what the other participants must find before the end of Caraval.

Scarlett will stop at nothing to find her younger sister, who she's been protecting her entire life. Is it me, or has this plot been altogether too common in YA as of late? Both sisters are very different people - Scarlett is cautious, almost fearful, and Tella is flighty, almost reckless. What I like most about this is that we're not just told the sisters are like that - it effects every choice they both make and everything they do throughout the book. Julian, who first leads the sisters to Caraval, is the source of much of the mystery for the book, as Scarlett, and the reader, tries to learn who he really is.

One thing this book does well is setting the scene early. Within the first few pages, the reader will have a pretty good idea of what Caraval is. The reader also has glimpsed the sisters' personalities, and how horrible their father can be. This is neatly shown in one scene where the sisters are trying to convince their father they were the one who was with Julian - at first, the reader might think it's just standard sisterly behaviour, trying blame it on the other. But it becomes clear that they were trying to protect the other - if one of them misbehaves, their father punishes the other sister. This shows why Scarlett feels it's so important to go through with her marriage as their only way out, and why Tella is so desperate to get them to Caraval. A lot of things make sense after that.

The descriptions are enchanting, utilising even purple prose well, to really bring the reader into the world. You'll feel like you're actually there, at Caraval, where everything is magic (or is it)? The air even has a certain scent, the colours feel brighter, and everything feels more alive. The author uses similes like they're going out a fashion - "sand so fluffy and white, it looked like the icing on a cake" - to give one example. Scarlett's emotions are described by colour - periwinkle curiosity, ashy shades of anxiety- but it's inconsistent, not done every time she feels something. It may have become annoying if it was more common, but it feels underdeveloped as it. The book also seems to have a slight aversion to the word said, but it's not bad enough to ruin it.

It's a very fast-paced read, I read it in literally a day. Pages fly by before you even notice they've gone. Since it's such an easy read, I feel it's one I'm going to enjoy even on rereads, too. Something new happens on almost every page. There are many twists and turns that while you may figure out some of them, you'll never figure out all of them.

Perfect for any fan of fantasy, mystery and adventure, this story is one that will pick you up and sweep you away.

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