‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber (2016) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I hadn’t immersed myself in a good fantasy book for an uncharacteristically long while. What better way to delve back into your favourite genre than a high…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough for what they desire more than anything.”

I hadn’t immersed myself in a good fantasy book for an uncharacteristically long while. What better way to delve back into your favourite genre than a high fantasy trilogy? There was plenty of hype about this series, but that wasn’t primarily what made me pick it up. It was the synopsis – the setting and plot were unlike anything that I had ever read before. The foundation of the entire world wasn’t set on classic fantasy tropes; it was a wholly unique concept. Being the curious cat that I am, I couldn’t resist the pull of all the great things that it promised. Now that I’ve finished the first book, I’ll say that reading it is definitely a great decision.

Warning: this review may contain spoilers.

Aesthetic book display created by Soyeenka Mishra

It all started with a series of letters. The initial pages of the series may lull you into a false sense of security but I’ll take it upon myself to advise you against relaxing while reading this book. Things happen at breakneck speed so you will miss important information if you don’t devote undivided attention to every line.

My first impressions of some of the characters were way off the mark and I couldn’t be gladder. Almost all of them were important to the plot in one way or another, too. I loved the delicate world-building; the way that even a seemingly-insignificant event had a major role in progressing the plot.

Another thing that I loved is how us readers get to know as much information as our protagonist, Scarlett Dragna. She twice gets a warning to not get too carried away by the magic of the Caraval (a magical game), but she falls in too deeply. 

The catch is, though, that she’s not the only one. Readers get caught up in the maddening tangled web that is the Caraval as well. It’s like a splash of cold water on your face when all the big reveals are done at the end. I did manage to predict a few things that were later revealed, but that doesn’t mean that the story as a whole is predictable. 

The biggest selling point for me was the fact that, although you may solve some mysteries, you’ll realise that you never really got answers about the important questions you had from the beginning. It shouldn’t be a good thing but it is, because that gives us something to look forward to in the second book. 

Perhaps, for the first time in a review, I’m refraining from elaborating on all of the major characters. Hell, I didn’t even go into the details about Scarlett’s personality. I guess I feel that I still have to witness the full spectrum of their personas, since I’m only one-third into the series.

Now, I’m not all praises for this book (though mostly I am). There were certain scenes that felt… dry to me? I won’t specify which ones but I felt like the emotional toll that scenes of such likeness should wrench out of me wasn’t really felt. I wanted things to unfold more dramatically, and I wanted more time in between betrayals and the truth-reveals to process what had happened. I found the ending to be slightly underwhelming, but the epilogue does promise more turbulent times to come. So, with hopes of something better arriving, I end my two-penny worth here.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

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