It’s your girl, back again with another round of speedy* audiobook reviews. In today’s edition, I’m going through the whole Caraval trilogy! This series is pretty hyped, so I figured I might as well give it a listen, if for no other reason than to know what people are talking about.
* I do have a fairly lengthy section of my spoiler-filled thoughts near the middle/end, but you can skip that. It is clearly marked for your convenience.
I’m going to do my best to keep this review in two parts: the spoiler-free beginning, and then a miscellaneous section of thoughts at the end that will contain some spoilers–bigger ones from the first books, since they give context for the later ones, and some vague/minor ones for the ending, because BOY HOWDY do I have some feelings about these books, and they are not all positive.
We will start with the basics…
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA fantasy
Narrator: Rebecca Soler (fantastic job, really brought the characters to life; I especially loved Julian’s accent)
Caraval: 3.5/5 stars
Legendary: 4/5 stars
Finale: 3/5 stars (being generous here)
Now, book by book, here’s what you need to know:
Plot (in 10 words or fewer): Magic game. Scarlett finds clues, kidnapped sister. Julian flirting. Deception.
– Julian’s humor
– All the twists at the end (definitely didn’t see half of those coming)
– Fun side characters (love Jovan and Aiko, especially)
– Cool premise in general
– Scarlett is so whiny and wimpy for most of the book
– The excessive descriptions of color were nice at first but got really old, really fast
– Some elements felt contrived. A little too convenient. I hate the reason Scarlett finds so many of the clues.
Plot (in 10 words or fewer): Tella plays the game. Two love interests. Save her mother?
– Tella is WAY more of a badass than Scarlett was
– Twists are less out-of-nowhere but still not easily predictable
– Interesting history of Tella’s family history, especially Paloma
– All the magic of Caraval, but bigger
– Tella is so dang impulsive, I want to slap some sense into her sometimes
– These boys need to calm down
– A bit too much self-sacrifice near the end
Plot (in 10 words or fewer): Tella: Legend or Jacks? Scarlett: magic? Both: romance, sisterhood.
– Love me some strong female friendships, including sisterhood
– Julian and Scarlett are honestly relationship goals (once they get through their shit)
– The higher stakes (Fates vs humans) were a nice change of pace
– The twist involving the identity of the Fallen Star was interesting
– I miss the game
– Not enough Paloma
– Legend. Jacks. Zip up and put the measuring sticks away, boys. Jeez.
– Even more flowery metaphors than usual, and I kind of hate it, because they don’t make sense and aren’t very original either
– Again with all the self-sacrifice? It’s like watching an episode of Supernatural, except less humorous, less emotional, and characters that are way harder to care about
– WTF WAS THAT ENDING?? Too fast, too easy, and too weird.
CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD. THE NEXT BOLD TEXT WILL TELL YOU WHEN THEY’RE DONE.
Miscellaneous complaints, thoughts, etc…
– It sucks that the games in this series were rigged so that only Scarlett could have won the first one and only Tella could have won the second. I was hoping for more of a competition aspect, really seeing other people scrambling to win and trying to block others’ attempts, but outside of a bit at the end of the first book, we didn’t get any of that. It felt cheap.
– I get why they emphasize color, especially given that Scarlett sees her feelings in color, and what she learns about them in the last book. But it was still just too much. And there was no need to describe every single dress either sister ever wore, in detail, at the moment they put them on.
– The identity of Legend was too easy to figure out. I wanted a twist. Instead, I got disappointment and confirmation of what literally everyone, including Tella, suspected. He is an asshole, and I don’t know what she sees in him.
– How exactly is Tella Jacks’ true love? Aside from physical chemistry, which I’m sure he has with lots of people, there’s no real connection between them. I get wanting his love for her to be more of a dangerous obsession, but for his heart to beat again, there had to be a form of true love, and that just wasn’t there.
– I know a lot of people love Jacks. He is less of a dick than Legend, for sure. But I still don’t like him. Maybe some of that was just how the narrator voiced him, but I can’t truly say.
– Why would you bring Paloma back at the end of Legendary, build her up so much, and then kill her off at the very beginning of Finale? Anticlimactic to say the least.
– Tella makes a deal to get a secret about the Fallen Star, where she promises to give up the weakness of her second daughter. After spending so much time being upset that her mother made a bargain promising her, Tella–her mother’s second daughter–to the Church of the Fallen Star. We never see the repercussions of it, and it had almost nothing to do with the plot. Cheap writing.
– I don’t think I would have been satisfied with Tella choosing either of her suitors, so naturally, I disliked her choice of one of them by the end. I would have greatly preferred her just dumping both of them and doing her own thing. She deserves better than constant manipulation.
– For all the cruelty in the book, and all the deaths or near-deaths, the ending was too much of a happily-ever-after. It didn’t match the tone of the rest.
– One thing I will say I liked is how much Scarlett matured over the course of the series. She got smarter and stronger and generally more enjoyable to read about. She went from hapless damsel in distress to literal queen. That was a good redemption.
OKAY, SPOILERS ARE OVER. TIME FOR FINAL THOUGHTS.
This series is a fun read, but not very memorable. It didn’t live up to the hype for me, though it was not an unpleasant thing to listen to on my commute. Though heavy on the purple prose and full of a bit too much romance for my liking–for crying out loud, stop being angsty about boys and making out at really big moments when you have bigger things to worry about!–it did deliver on an intriguing premise with nice surprises along the way.
Verdict? Not something I’ll probably recommend, but not quite a waste of time. I don’t regret reading it. If you want something a little magical, a little cheesy, and an odd blend of dramatic and fluffy, give it a try.
Until next time,