‘Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.’
Scarlett has been dreaming of the magic of Caraval since she was a young girl, and as a child wrote letter after letter to the mysterious man behind it, hoping to be invited. However, she has long since given up, and now only wants a means of escape for her and her sister Tella from their cruel father. She hopes an arranged marriage to a Count will be her and her sister’s salvation…but then the long-awaited invitation to Caraval finally arrives.
So this is one series I’ve been super behind with! I’ve been hearing so much about this series for years, and somehow never started it, but when the final book was released recently I decided it was finally time. And you know what? It was an enjoyable series. There was a lot I really liked about it, but perhaps because of the hype, I was not as blown away as I expected to be. But let’s start out with the good shall we?
One of my favourite things about this series was the character of Scarlett, which is probably why I liked the first book Caraval the most, as it was entirely from her perspective. I’ve always really liked books about sister relationships, and I think Scarlett is such a good sister: she’ll go to the ends of the earth for Tella, no matter what it costs her personally. I also thought the way she sees people’s emotions in colours was an interesting quirk, and very in keeping with the way she is empathetic towards others. I also really liked her romance storyline, and the slow burn development of it, as she tries to resist for the sake of going through with her arranged marriage to the Count.
Another thing I loved about this series was the atmosphere. I’ve talked about atmospheres in books back in this post here, and Caraval had one of my favourite atmospheres: a magical, anything-can-happen vibe full of wonder and mystery. I feel like that vibe was the most dominant in the first book and the original Caraval, which is probably another reason that I liked that book the best.
And as for the stuff that I didn’t like as much…a major problem for me in this series was Tella. I just didn’t really like her as a character, and despite the fact she is supposedly super vivacious and fun, I found her a little flat to be honest. Not to mention she’s at the centre of a love triangle, which is one of those tropes I generally dislike unless it’s super, super well done.
I just feel that she was very selfish: she never respects her sister’s decisions and always wrangles her around to getting her way, and as Scarlett herself even says at one point in the story, she just doesn’t love Scarlett as much as Scarlett loves her. Scarlett undergoes so much in the first book for Tella, and it’s never really reciprocated throughout the series.
Plus, as I say, I didn’t really enjoy her romances that much. Part of her rebellious character is that she flirts and kisses various men, with no intention of falling in love (which I actually really liked in theory, rather than the whole ‘immediately falling for the right person’ thing you usually get in books, and particularly YA), but all her interactions with men seemed really tame and superficial. It was basically, ‘say something sarcastic, and then have some earth-shattering kiss’. Plus you always knew who she would choose in the end.
Another nitpick I had with this series was the huge reveal of the mysterious Legend…which was in no way surprising. The person who I thought it would be was so obvious, I assumed it was going to be a red herring, but then it was who I thought, and I felt kind of underwhelmed. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be a huge, surprising twist, but I feel like it should have been, considering the level of mystery around him.
On the whole though, despite the things I didn’t like, I’m glad I finally read this series. I thought the concept was interesting, and I liked the magical world of the series, and I did really like Scarlett as a character. I think perhaps my problem with this series was a classic case of high expectations due to hype…I mean, I had heard three books worth of hype about this series, so it had a lot to live up to!
So have you read the Caraval series? What did you think?