It feels like the list was already endless for books and series I’m behind on, but I’m slowly learning there is always more. I literally just added five more books this week to my “Books I Want” list, it’s only going downhill from here. Caraval, the series, not just book one was one item on that endless list that everyone on booktube, bookstagram, Goodreads, etc seemed to not only have read, but loved. The reviews on these books is in the high 3-4 star range average rating wise. After that information, and the synopsis I figured it was about time I crossed another item off my long list. This is a series review, but it will be broken down by book, so ye be warned there are spoilers possibly ahead.
Caraval is a trilogy following two sisters, Scarlett and Tella Dragna, who have never left their tiny home island where their father not only governs the people, but his two daughters with a heavy hand. Faced with an upcoming arranged marriage, the eldest, Scarlett attempts to write to a traveling show where if one solves all the clues they are granted one wish by the show’s organizer, Legend. Unlike all their other attempts, this time Legend writes back and sends three tickets for them to join, setting the two sisters on an exciting and dangerous adventure.
Overall Series Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This series was really enjoyable, if I hadn’t been a painting nut with at home (literally started painting a bookcase and ended up painting the whole room) I would have been done with this series in a week in all honesty. I was surprised, and elated by this since hype doesn’t always work out to mean great books. Besides judging Donatella/Tella’s name a little bit in the beginning I really got attached to these characters and was on board the entire way. It was like the series ended up being one book for me with how fast I got into this, and how fast they disappeared.
The characters are probably the big pull for this series as each of them are well described, and grown. There’s a pretty decent cast, and the ones directly influencing the story are each given a great backstory, and chance to change/grow. Does this mean all the characters in the show are really in-depth? Not exactly, but given the size of the group I’d say that would be expected, and forgiven if not ignored in this case. For me personally, I think the other big selling point in this series is with the magic system. Beyond the stories of the Fates, who could use their magic against humans with no harmful effects, magic in this series comes at a cost. While I love an easy magic system like Harry Potter, magic with consequences is always interesting depending on how it’s spun, and Caraval didn’t disappoint. To get by in this magical competition, competitors and the audience are typically able to purchase magical items, which can cost memories, years, always something of integral value. It adds to the risk of playing the game, and seriously intensified the events of the series.
I will say that the one con in the series for me was with how the book’s point of view setup was broken up. Most fantasy books tend to have multiple POVs in each book, breaking it up by chapter or section. Caraval? It’s sort of broken up by book. Book one primarily follows Scarlett while book two closely follows Tella, and book 3 a mix of both. It’s not my favorite way of going through different points of view, but it didn’t slow me down or deter me either. I would say Scarlett was my preferred POV in the series, so Legendary (Book 2) was a little harder to get going in since I tend to struggle with POV switches in general. It’s just one of those setups I can see messing up a reader if they fail to attach to Tella in book two, or like me don’t always enjoy major POV changes.
Caraval (Book #1)
Out of the three books I think Caraval was my favorite. Sounds crazy, right? While I would say the settings in this first novel are rather limited, the danger and mysteriousness felt different, unique maybe. For one thing, Scarlett and Tella’s knowledge in this book is like a negative, not even zero knowledge. All they know of the show, and it’s master, Legend, is based on stories told to them as children. It’s not a spoiler to say that things you are told from other sources, not even those given to a child, are sometimes exaggerated or with kids playful in how they are given. So going to a mysterious island to partake in a show/competition you think you know about, but truly don’t? Riskyyyyy on so many levels. I guess at least the reader is able to start at ground zero and build their own theories even while Scarlett and Tella have theirs. This novel went by fast, and while I had already bought the other books before starting this one, this book definitely made me read the others and laid some great groundwork.
Legendary (Book #2)
This one as I said earlier was a little harder of a start for me as a reader. Where Scarlett is this cautious and strategic protagonist in the first book, Tella is a very different POV to change to, and it felt like a dramatic change between books because of that. For one, she makes some bad decisions all around when she just charges into things. It’s like throwing caution to the wind was her one and true strategy in the beginning of this book, and I was stressed for her. In some ways I would normally say that’s a good thing, but it was before things were even going down. She’s just rash, and it’s not easy to deal with as a reader. I also struggled with her love interests in this novel as both are pretty bad, not as characters, but as any form of significant others. One is threatening her, and the other either has secrets or is just throwing her into bad situations. Not exactly ideal.
Finale (Book #3)
This one was a better all-around after the POV switch in Legendary. We finally get back Scarlett as a protagonist, and are of course thrown into a much greater danger. Where the other two books went by fast, this one was written to be inhaled. There is just so much going on character, danger, and romance wise. You are are on the final stretch, and it felt like it. The danger felt real for the characters, and there was genuine worry for how this would end. I still got lost on some of the intricacies of the Dragna family that were revealed, but I think I kind of pieced it together at the end, so no harm done I guess. It also felt like all the great plot points were nicely tied up as well when we hit the last pages, so as far as final books went this one was a great ending, or Finale you could say.
All in all, this series will be staying on my shelves for quite a while. I went into this based on hype, and was greatly surprised and pleased by how much I liked this series. I now know what everyone has been talking about, and can now join the discussion! It’s also another great magical competition book I can add to my list (bwahaha!), so I guess that will be coming hopefully next year. Have you read the Caraval series? Did it meet the hype for you? Let me know in the comments below!