Caraval by Stephanie Garber
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Enter the fantastical world of Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems. The Caraval game has been a dream to Scarlett and her sister Tella. Stuck on their home island with an abusive father, the girls want nothing more than to lose themselves in the beauty and mystery that Caraval promises. But every year Scarlett sends a letter to Legend, the master of Caraval, it goes unanswered.
Desperate to escape her father, Scarlett will do whatever she can to leave her island. So desperate she will even accept an arranged marriage to a person that may be just as bad as her father. But it's a risk she is willing to take. Until Legend invites the sisters to his Caraval island, and Tella decides their only option of escape is to play the game. Swept up in the magic of Caraval, Scarlett will have to rescue her sister from the master of the game or risk losing her forever.
I could taste and smell everything Stephanie Garber described in Caraval. The writing was so vivid and detailed. You could imagine yourself, in the heart of Caraval, swept up in the sights and sounds Scarlett experienced. The very essence of Caraval was the reason I continued this book, even though I did not enjoy the characters.
Scarlett was not a character I could connect to. She was meek and second-guessed herself all the time. I had hoped her character development would turn into a more confident and self-assured person, and it did not. She did develop, just not in ways I enjoyed reading. There was more relationship building than actual character development. Romance never sells a book for me. This was a beautifully detailed book, but the love angle didn't appeal to me. It could also be because I wasn't a fan of her love interest. He was...boring and when he took risks for Scarlett, I didn't care if he was injured or not.
The mechanics and world-building of Caraval won me over. Full of twists and turns, the reader is left wondering what is real and what is part of the game. For the first time in a while, I enjoyed a book even if I didn't like the characters. I've been encouraged by a few people to start the next one, and given the reviews, I've been seeing it is better than the first. I can't wait to see what Legend has in store for the next Caraval.
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