Caraval by Stephanie Garber (spoilers)
Firstly, I’ll begin by saying that I’ve been waiting to read this book since the day I heard it existed. Ever since I read The Night Circus, I’ve been desperately trying to find a book that had the same emotion and essence of magical realism, and reading the blurb for this book on Goodreads was like a dream come true. Caraval is the story of two sisters who live on an island with their father, who regularly abuses them. Scarlet, the older sister, writes to the Caraval Legend, a man infamous for his staged games that last five days and grant the victor a wish. Simply by reading the two sentences of the premise, I knew I would love this book.
And here’s the thing: I really did love it. The characters are well-written and relatable for the most part, not being too lovable or despicable. It was exactly the genre I was craving, and had the right amount of character development, fantasy elements, and slightly stilted reality that I enjoy reading in my books. However, the two things I found disappointing were the unnecessary amount of romance and the ending. The love interest in the book, although not horrible, just relied on too many tropes, and even though Garber managed to make his character arc interesting, it deflated towards the end and made him cliche, which leads to my second point. After a well-developed, intensely suspenseful story, the ending just seemed so predictably cheesy and cliche that it sent me reeling in shock, a feeling that didn’t fade until the very end. I think Garber would’ve made a much more effective conclusion to her book by making it a stand-alone novel and ending it before mystically resurrecting all her characters and giving them a happily ever after. I’m hoping this issue will be resolved in the sequel, and it won’t just turn into a cheesy YA romance novel.
Overall, however, it’s an intriguing and attention-grabbing read, recommended for people who enjoy fantasy but are wary about the epic and high fantasy sections of literature.