Caraval, Stephanie Garber
I need to recuse myself to a great degree with these admissions: I am a heterosexual male and a geezer at that. This book was not written for me and it is not a type of book I would normally read. I grabbed it because I do like magical realism, for which I mistook this book, and it has been selling well. I know the latter is no guarantee that I will like a book. John Grisham and James Patterson are both best-selling authors and I despise them both. And 50 Shades of Gray was a great success and a book I do not and never will have a desire to read.
All this said, let me try to find a few things to like.
Similes. Stephanie Graber can write fairly interesting similes. “As bold as a trumpet” was memorable. As was “thin as a stretched spider’s web” is another. Wait, you may be saying, those are metaphors. No, they’re similes and shut up. A metaphor is a slave in the 1860s comparing Lincoln to Moses. A simile is “this was like that”. Again, shut up. Garber is very fresh with her similes. No “happy as a clam” or “quiet as a mouse” for her. Some are very unique and I’d say 80% are thought provoking, so much so that sometimes they made me take a pause from the activity in the book to see if I understood the comparison.
I was quite willing to run along with this book with letters from a young girl (Scarlet) to the master of Caraval asking him to bring it to the island where she lives. After several years with no answer she receives an invitation.
But then we begin meeting some of the other characters in the book. Scarlet has a sister Donatella (Tella through most of the book). We meet her father who, when one sister disobeys, physically punishes the other sister. Consistently. And we meet Julian who will sail Scarlet and her sister to attend what we discover is a type of live-action game of Caraval. Julian is handsome. Julian has rock-hard abs. Julian insists on calling Scarlet “Crimson” because … I don’t know, he’s good at synonyms? Oh, no, he’s a teasing flirt with rock-hard abs.
The sisters escape to Caraval with Julian. Donatella disappears. We learn she has been kidnapped by Legend, the mysterious master of the game.
As a kind of Steampunkish fantasy there are interesting ideas. Time moves differently here because time powers Legend’s magic. But the emphasis is bodice ripping and that’s where the book drifts when the activity relents.
It’s a best seller. If you like a somewhat elevated romance this is the book for you. I know what I like and I usually stick with that. I don’t think most of the publisher descriptions accurately described what I was in for. If you’ve found your tastes matching mine I hope this will be a reasonable caveat. If a review like this injures Stephanie Garber I’m sure, like Liberace, she’ll be crying all the way to the bank.