Hello beautiful! A few weeks ago I started the “Reviewing My Bookshelf” series with this post here. For this series, I am going through my bookshelf and reviewing every book I don’t already have a review up for. Hopefully it will encourage me to tackle my physical TBR, cause it’s getting too long
This is the second installment in the series, and today I’m going to be talking about the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber.
I bought these books as they came out and, at first, loved them. I hadn’t read much YA at the time of the first book, and thought it was wonderful. I’ve recently done a re-read/skim, and let me tell you, they do NOT hold up to the image in my mind.
Buckle in folks, this one’s going to be a rollercoaster. For those of you worried about spoilers, tread carefully, because I hardly remember what’s a spoiler and isn’t. Without further ado, here’s my review!
Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett is our main character for book one. Little Blue thought that Scarlett was amazing because she loved the way Scarlett talked about things in terms of color, which is how I think of most things. Older Blue (hi yes that’s me) appreciates that aspect of Scarlett’s character but, overall, finds Scarlett frustrating, deceitful to herself, and a bit whiny. She tells herself that she is not attracted to Julian, but *spoiler* it’s way too obvious from the very beginning that she has fallen for him and wants to be with him *end of spoiler*. She does not pick up on fairly obvious hints and clues, and she claims to love her sister dearly yet rarely demonstrates that love. I found this mostly to be a conflict between show and tell: We are told Scarlett cares for Tella, we are told she dislikes Julian, we are told she’s clever and sensible, but we do not see any of it. She whines, makes dumb decisions, and feels very shallow. I had a harder time connecting with her character as the series went on, because Garber comes up with a magical reason for the few points of personality she had, and it disappointed me to see things that I thought were cool character traits turn out to be magical powers. The thing about colors that seemed to be a fun quirk of personality? Really just a manifestation of her powers. I don’t know, I found it kind of surface level and struggled to find much that was actually redeeming about Scarlett as a character. Sorry.
Tella is Scarlett’s sister, and she is a main character in the second and third books. I did not like her in book one because of the way she was portrayed and her lack of consideration for her sister’s emotions and feelings. Because of this rough start, I found it difficult to connect with her when she was introduced as a second protagonist. She was even whinier than her sister. She was also involved in two relationships (Oh joy another love triangle -_- ) that were clearly meant to be a contrast between lust and true love. Spoiler alert: both centered around lust. Tella had very little depth as a character and most of her decisions centered around the men in her life. It drove me absolutely batty. I might even go so far as to call her my least favorite character in the series.
Hmm. In book one, we followed a plot of Scarlett trying to win the contest of Caraval in an effort to both escape from her abusive father and save her sister. I liked the twists and turns fairly well, though most were predictable. Parts of it were fairly intense in a good way. The second book introduced the Fates, magical deities (kinda) who had been released from their prison. This plot continued into the third, with Scarlett and Tella finding out more about their mother and heritage. Throughout the series, there are also a couple of romantic plots. Scarlett’s was okay, though I didn’t love it. Tella’s bugged me no end. While I initially liked one of the characters she was interested in, as he was mysterious and had the chance to develop and be a layered person, he turned out to be just as shallow as the rest of the characters, and his relationship with Tella felt mostly physical. The plot did have its high moments, particularly in the first book, but overall it fell flat or seemed forced.
Okay. I liked Garber’s writing style for a few things. First of all, she can write some wonderful descriptions, and I really felt the atmosphere of Caraval in book one, which is very important to me with any circus story. Her writing is also very easy to read. However, I felt that this actually pulled away from the story. It did not give me a sense of richness; it was too average. Characters felt underdeveloped and made decisions that seemed illogical with the traits we were told they had. I’d have to do a more thorough re-read to fully discuss this, but overall I felt that the writing either felt forced or painfully average. It did not add anything to the story; rather, it occasionally detracted from the story.
I don’t think these books had much language at all; maybe an occasional use of d**n. The second and third books had a bit more sexual content than the first, which had a few steamy kisses and an instance of almost-rape. There’s some innuendo as well. In the second or third book, even though no one has sex on page, it felt like there was a very lust-y overtone at times. It’s not the worst of problems, but it made me feel a little uncomfortable.
In conclusion, I don’t think these books are well-written, have good characters, or have a good plot. They can be entertaining at times for some inexplicable reason, but I can’t think of one strong good point in their favor. I still enjoy them when I’m tired and want to read something I don’t have to think about. I do not think the trilogy is worth the hype, but they do have some really beautiful covers. I loved them when they first came out, so some younger readers might enjoy them, but they have since fallen from favor in my eyes.
I give this series 2 out of 5 stars.
Have you read this trilogy? What did you think? Was it worth the hype for you? Let me know in the comments!
Have an adventurous day!