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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Updated: Nov 2, 2019

Publisher/date: Flatiron Books (January 31, 2017)

Genre: YA Fantasy

There's more to life than staying safe...

Scarlett and Tella are sisters of an abusive father, who punishes them by beating the other when they've displeased him. The last time Scarlett displeased her father, he killed someone. And told her that her sister was next.

She has spent every moment since then protecting Tella with her every breath, giving everything to keep them both safe. But Tella is the typical second child, brash and wild. Scarlett has her hands full.

So when a mysterious and handsome sailor shows up to sneak them away to see the amazing show Caraval, Scarlett turns down her dream to keep them safe. But Tella has other plans... plans to escape forever from their violent and controlled lives.

I started Caraval like I started A Court of Thorns and Roses - hating the protagonist's family. But while SJM takes absolutely forever explaining that away (and frankly isn't done yet,) Stephanie Garber dismisses my hatred of Scarlett's sister very quickly and satisfyingly. I enjoy that, having something explained in the same book, so that I can understand the characters motivations. I like how Stephanie builds her characters, not all at once, more like a trail of breadcrumbs, easy to follow. I feel like I know them.

While the story was interesting and suspenseful, I found that it didn't live up to the hype surrounding it. It's certainly not one of my top books of the year. BUT. I've learned my lesson on judging a series by its first book. It takes time to build characters and an entire fantasy world, leaving less time for an actual plot. I find that the first book in a series is almost always my least favorite. So I do plan to continue the series. My favorite part of the book was that it had an ENDING! A satisfying one. You've heard me get on this soap box before - but in case you haven't...

It is my #1 TOP bookish pet peeve when an author breaks one story into a series of books. It is price gouging and consumer abusive, and I hate it. If the book ends, the story within those bindings needs completion. Of course there will be cliffhangers and leads into the next book, but is that story done? If not, don't make it multiple books! Stephanie Garber is my hero for not falling into this all too common practice nowadays, and this story does finish, leaving me wanting the next one. Perfect.

3.5/5, I liked it, but it's not a big feels book for me. I don’t know if I'll be reading the next one.

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