This book had me hooked from the first page to the last. With a story full of twists and turns and loveable characters, it's a book I wasn't expecting much from but got way more than I bargained for.
If you don't like metaphors and interesting, sometimes eccentric description, this book isn't for you. Me, I enjoyed it. Some reviewers have commented on things like “how can you taste midnight?” but I get it. It's not so much taste midnight, it's the all-around experience of it. If you take everything you read literally, this book won't be for you. Scarlett also had an ability, similar to synesthesia, but with a more magical, empath-like twist, where she could experience her emotion in the form of colours, and it was interesting to read what colour combination matched the emotion.
The broader world was a tad tropey, but not so much that I didn't enjoy it. Part of me wants to know more about the world as a whole, part of me thinks everything is about the setting of Caraval, and the point is the rest of the world is supposed to fall away until Caraval is everything. At least for a few days.
“The sky was black, the moon visiting some other part of the world, as Scarlett took her first step into Caraval. Only a few rebel stars held posts above...”
I don't even know where to begin here. This is almost a story told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, but it's not really her fault. Anything and everything the characters experiences could be completely fake or it could be real, and it's nigh on impossible to know which is which. And just when you think you've figured it out, and there can't be another twist you're not prepared for, something will hit you. Sometimes books like this annoy me. The twists seem random or not thought out. Caraval was different though. Caraval seemed well thought out. Nothing was there without a purpose and the author had a way of telling the story that drew you in so you experienced everything right along with Scarlett.
There was one problem with experiencing things along with the main character though, you're left out of the loop a lot. The magic system is... magic? These systems are supposed to have limits that are defined. If not, what's the point? Anyone can do anything and it's all ok? I'm hoping this is explained more in future books otherwise the stakes might seem less concerning if someone can click their fingers and undo all the bad that's happened.
“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”
Scarlett is the main character, whose point of view we experience Caraval. In the beginning, she was mildly annoying, a weak female character who I wanted to give a nudge to fight for herself. But that's where we get the growth. Once she gets over herself at the start of the book, she becomes a character I enjoyed reading about, and one I could eventually cheer for. Her personality could've been more in-depth, with more story than a missing mother and abusive father, but overall, she was just about good enough to carry the story. I can only hope she grows more and is fleshed out better in further books.
The somewhat predictable love interest, but still my favourite character in this book. After all, without Julian, where would Scarlett be? Dead, probably! Julian is an enigmatic character. I'm not sure we ever find out who he is for 100% certain, but that's one of the reasons I actually like him. His story is clearly complicated, but he's likeable and I was rooting for Julian throughout.
Donatella is Scarlett's younger, more irresponsible and out of control sister. Although I think there's a secret heart of gold hidden under the insecurity and madness. The whole plot is centered around her, but you don't get to actually see much of her. Scarlett clearly cares deeply for her, though, and it sounds like she's important for future books, so I'll be interested in reading more about her.
Would I read it again? If I didn't have thousands of other books on my list, sure. This isn't one of those I'd pick up as a “comfort read” though.
Will I be picking up the next in the series? Yeah, eventually. I'm great at starting series and never finishing them. I'll get on it eventually.
Would I recommend it? If you like a lot of metaphors, a little bit of romance and a magical setting, you should definitely give this one a go.
Is it going on my favourites shelf? Not quite. I enjoyed it, but not at that level.