Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Alexis: Read 3/2/19

Unfortunately, I found Caraval so much worse than The Night Circus. I know a lot of comparisons have been drawn between the two books, so I thought I would give you my own.

The Night Circus is beautifully written, with lush and lyrical descriptions, but is very slow moving and has a sparse plot. I can’t say the same thing about Caraval’s writing. It felt middle-grade (and not in a creative way) and cliché. However, it is fast-paced and there is a layered plot. Both books have insta-love, though I have to say the relationship in Caraval actually felt more convincing.

So let’s delve more into Garber’s writing. Throughout the book, she relies on one particular, peculiar type of metaphor: the insert color was insert emotion. Here’s an example: “…a blaze of shimmery gold, the color of magic and wishes and promises of things to come” (14). Here’s another: “A ruby welt bloomed across his cheek. The color of rage and punishment” (45). Here’s a third: “…a rich cerise—the color of seduction and secrets” (660).

I usually love repetition, whether in motifs, anaphora, etc. But the repetition of these metaphors drove me crazy. They’re cliché and terrible and made me say “really??” out loud too many times. And none of them even made sense!

Another thing that drove me crazy was that half of the plot was predictable. You know from the beginning that Scarlett is going to get together with Julian. There was only one plot point towards the end that I didn’t see coming.

As for the characters, I only liked Julian, but only because he’s the only character with somewhat of an interesting personality. He’s your classic “dark and handsome but is he good or bad?” type of guy with Edward-Twilight caramel eyes: “light brown, the color of caramel and liquid amber lust” (172). The descriptions of him were super cringey.

I found Scarlett to be too whiny and annoying, and Donatella wasn’t much better. Even their names seemed to get in the way of the story; it was as if their names drew too much attention from it. It doesn’t help that Scarlett’s name is also a color, so her name is thrown around with all of the cringey color metaphors. One of the characters even says of Scarlett, “You’re so dramatic, you would’ve made a fantastic performer” (308). And god, was he right.

The dialogue doesn’t have any subtext. I absolutely hated that Governor Dragna is described as dragon-like. And I could’ve cared less about the plot of this book.

I think the one word that sums up this book is cringeworthy. I really wanted to like it, I enjoyed how the book opened up with letters, and I initially though Garber’s worldbuilding was good (in the first 10 pages). But this obviously wasn’t the book for me.

VERDICT: 1 and ½ out of 5 books

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