Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Genre:
Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: January 31, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 407
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Blurb:
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

REVIEW: (Contains spoilers!)

Well, this book has been…interesting to read. I’m not exactly jumping head over heels for this book. So a fair warning to ya, this is gonna be a rant. Because I didn’t enjoy this as much as I was hoping to. I may be one of the few who found this book to be over-hyped and believe that this book is just not for me. And I was so caught up in the hype, waiting for its publication date. But unfortunately, Caraval was a huge disappointment for me.

What I Liked About Caraval:

“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”

Because I still believe each book has its merits, I’ll point out what I like about this book before telling you what about it that irked me.

I like the world building and writing in this one. Garber has done well in that, at least. It was fairly easy to imagine the wonderful world that is Caraval and its unique and magical characters. We have a beautiful island where Caraval is held and where all the mysteries and wonders take place.

With breath-taking views and splendid architecture that comes alive at night, Caraval has a pretty descriptive and interesting setting.

The writing is also alright for me. Whilst the plot isn’t my favourite part of the book, the writing does have its own special essence that made me continue reading it despite considering to DNF this multiple times.

“No one is truly honest. Even if we don’t lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.”  

What I Disliked About Caraval:

I wasn’t a huge fan of Scarlett and Donatella Dragna in this. Nor was I of any of the main characters. Though I loved the details of the performers and the way they brought themselves about in the game, the MCs weren’t anything special in my opinion. I found the Dragna sisters to be whiny and spoilt, and despite growing up in an abusive environment where their father is the true villain here, I’m surprised that Scarlett wasn’t made out to be a little bit brighter. This is a game of high risks, but to have the MC scared and paranoid the whole time when she should have tried to solve all those clues in a more efficient way just pissed me off. Yes she did eventually solve them and found Tella, but wasn’t her feelings for Julian more important?

It certainly felt that way…

Because what’s more cliche in a YA book than 2 MCs hating each other in the beginning only to fall in love after a week of knowing each other? God forbid, we teach the young-lings that going off on an adventure with a random stranger is a good idea.

The whole plot didn’t really work out for me. It felt like the romance was more of the focus in this book. That and Scarlett’s insistence of getting married to the Count and running away to her happily ever after, instead of figuring out how to save her sister from Legend’s grasp.

The ending seemed a bit abrupt and it felt like the story wanted to save everyone from dying. But I guess that kind of manipulation and deception is what made people like this book.

The one thing I truly felt made this book overrated is its comparison to The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern). I’ve read The Night Circus and I can honestly say Caraval doesn’t even begin to compare with it. The Night Circus had so much depth, plot and wonderful characters in spite of the amazing love story woven into it.

So no, Caraval is unlike The Night Circus.

So those are my thoughts on Caraval. I won’t be apologetic for having an unpopular opinion on an over-hyped book. It just didn’t work out for me. Though I won’t continue with the series, you could still give it a try. If you’ve read this do let me know what you think of it and what made you like it!

RATING: ★★☆☆☆

Review: Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

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Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication date: November 17, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Review:

“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

To start this review off, here are a couple of responses I received when I showed this book on my social media:

“I don’t think you’ll enjoy this. It’s very slow and nothing happens much”

“I was very unimpressed with this one. Don’t get your hopes up too much”

So, to be fair, I did lower my expectations a whole lot because I thought this book was going to be overrated.

But I am so glad I turned out lovin’ this book !

It was so unexpected because the beginning was slow and nothing major actually happens. But, if you’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, you’ll know how Wonderland is set. With its melancholic settings and vibrant characters scattered throughout the book, I found Heartless to be a wonderful rendition of the Land of Hearts itself.

“Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”
“An empty threat from an empty girl.”
She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”
“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”

The Plot

In terms of plot, this book isn’t up for much. So if you’re expecting adventurous fantasy for the to-be Queen of Hearts, then that is where you will be sorely disappointed. But if you don’t mind a slow heart warming read that shatters your heart into pieces in the most agonising way, then Heartless is perfect!

The story develops as we see what led to Cath becoming the ruthless Queen of Hearts and the journey that gave the phrase “Off with his head” such character. We get to see the older side of Hearts and some lovable characters reappear — the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter (who’s known as Hatta in this one). To see them progress into the characters I first found in Alice and discover their secrets before meeting Alice was a wonderful experience for me.

Though not having much adventures or major occurrences in the book, Heartless will tug your heartstrings in rooting for Cath and wishing some alternate ending was at the end of the book. When the inevitable comes on that last page, you can’t help but to feel sorrow for the Queen of Hearts and how she came to be.

I love how Heartless is so similar to Wicked where the Wicked Witch of the West was portrayed in a positive manner to question “Are you born wicked or do you develop wickedness later in life?”. And Heartless is a matter of the latter.

The Characters

I ended up liking Cath so much in Heartless! Her aspirations to become a baker and open her own bakery touched my heart and I was rooting for her throughout the book. Meyer also happens to like making her readers drool while reading because her descriptions of the pastries and confections Cath makes throughout the book is divine!

And then, there’s Jest the Joker who was equally charming, giving off that mysterious yet sincere vibe from someone who just arrived in Hearts. You can’t help but to be attracted to him and how he treats Cath, not as a Marquess’ daughter, but as an individual person.

“The easiest way to steal something, is for it to be given willingly.”

Mayer wrote the characters so well in this one that I didn’t feel any important character was left out. Even Cath’s over-protective but well meaning parents were described very well in the book!

We also got to see many of these character’s selves before meeting Alice and what secrets they held long time before that. I especially liked the Mad Hatter origins and thought his history was unique and held so much importance over the story.

Overall, I truly, truly enjoyed Heartless and would recommend this if you enjoyed Lewis Caroll’s works in Alice. Heartless is a wonderful and quick journey to remind us the power of imagination and celebrate Caroll’s works that has inspired so many stories and imaginations.

RATING: ★★★★

Have you read this and what did you think about it?

Review: The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly)

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis:

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

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Review: Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)

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Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★.5

Synopsis:

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

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Review: The Archived (Victoria Schwab) 

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous-it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hardwon redemption.

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Review: Nevernight (Jay Kristoff) 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★.5

Synopsis:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

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