“CARAVAL Review: Attempt #1”
*stage quiets down*
Nina: Okay, so I finished this book feeling very very conflicted, and I just.. I might be confused and- Wait, wait, can we do this again? Sorry. I forgot my lines.
CARAVAL Review: Attempt #2
*recording begins again*
Nina: Uhm. [sweats nervously] While this may just be a case of It’s not you, dear book; it’s me and my pickiness and the hype.. And speaking of that hype, oh dear god, that hype! The HYPE. THAT HYPE INFURIATED ME AND MADE ME WANT TO THROW THIS BOOK INTO HELL ITSELF AND I AM FEELING SO @$&/!&$&@/9/askfjrndn-
Director: [whispers] Control yourself, Nina, this is being broadcasted LIVE.
CARAVAL Review: Attempt #3″
Alright guys, let’s begin this review for real and in all seriousness once again, yes? Yes.
Let’s see what we have here.. *sorts through papers* Ah yes. CARAVAL.
*rubs forehead to dispel headache*
My experience with this much-beloved book is.. interesting, for sure.
Alright, a little background info. I’ve been seeing this book making noise in the blogosphere and elsewhere around.. gosh, around the middle of 2016?? Maybe?? Seems about right. And that synopsis was so interesting, so gripping, that I promised myself I’d buy this sure-to-be glorious book the second it came out. Or, better yet, how about I try and request an ARC?
Thing is, I may have, ah, forgotten about the whole requesting-ARC-thing toward the end of the year (I blame CROOKED KINDGOM’s release for that), and by the time my easily-distracted brain remembered, it had become so difficult and exhausting to request to read this book early, the publishers denied me, and people who had one were looking for nothing short of the ARCs of the Quran and Bible in exchange for it.
It felt like trying to stand in line to buy something on Black Friday.
And so, long story short, my expectations, as a result, shot up as high as as high as Burj Khalifa or that even higher building that Dubai announced it was going to build [please excuse my architectural analogies, but my major is, after all, architecture, and my recent research assignment is still swirling through my head as we speak]. I felt that, for sure, CARAVAL was going to blow my mind away. It was supposed to, wasn’t it? That’s the point, surely, thought I.
Wise Self: Oh Nina, have you learned nothing about hyped books?
No, wise self. I have not. And for that, I apologize.
But anyways. Let’s proceed.
The setting was nothing new. The characters were as flat as.. what’s flat? A pancake? Yeah, the characters were as flat as a pancake, and as unlikable as a pancake without syrup. The plot is recycled. But at least the cover is pretty. #StayPositive
Let me explain some more, if you please. Although, on the outset, CARAVAL’s setting seems magical and whimsical and Alice-In-Wonderland-y, upon closer inspection, the world-building really has no solid ground to it. And this saddens me. Why? Because if you asked me to describe this world to you, I would only say “it’s glittery and pretty”. Nothing more, nothing less.
Because, really, let’s look at this closely:
•What’s their currency? They pay by confessing desires and fears and secrets. Okay, that’s cool. But if I told the seller that I really wanted a pony when I was 6 and that I am afraid of a large TBR, then how, exactly, does the vendor benefit? How do they make a living? Do they use this information for bribery or..what? See? I’ve got nothing. Someone explain this to me. Please.
•People in CARAVAL are either Players or Watchers. Alrighty, that’s fabulous. But the Players are running around looking for clues in the city, sleeping in their inn’s rooms, drinking at taverns. So the Watchers.. what? Stare at the Players while they sleep? Watch them go shopping and maaAAaaybe catch a clue? How, exactly, can you “watch” something if it isn’t on a stage?
Nothing is explained, so nothing makes sense. All I think is: Why. Why. Whyyyyyy.
Now, onto characters.
•Scarlett irritated me, big time. She’s either too sure of herself, or doubts every thought she has. She is WAY to obsessed with every male she meets. And I find it a little insulting [my use of “little” translated to “ALOT” in this case, mind you], that whenever Julian would leave her side, she would panic. So I take that to mean that she can’t do anything right or have confidence in herself unless her darling love interest is beside her? Because if so, that is downright pathetic.
•Julian, too, was made of too many tropes and not enough substance. He’s Ultra-Handsome-With-A-Secret™, and he thinks the MC is “different”. Oh, and he tries hard to convince her that he’s a bad person and that she should stay away from him, but HAHAHAHA that doesn’t happen. How shocking. (Not.)
And oh! How could I forget to talk about the writing style? As you may have heard, Stephanie uses synesthesia (switching up the senses; i.e. Orange noise; feathery voice; etc and so forth). And she uses synesthesia GENEROUSLY. Meaning, take out this particular technique, and CARAVAL would be a pamphlet.
Now. If you’ve read any single one of my reviews beforehand, you’d surely notice that, out of every aspect in a novel, it’s the writing style that I judge the hardest. Not pacing, or characters, or setting. And why? Because, the way I see it, your writing style makes or breaks your book. There’s just no other way around this.
In regards to writing style, I love stylized sentences, I do. My only objection, though, is not to go anywhere near purple prose. Although, as a style, I love love love synesthesia (it’s also one of the many reasons why I love Marie Rutkoski’s writing), Garber used it too much. The pages are saturated with it, and, as a result, her descriptions turn from interesting to downright nonsensical due to the overuse of synesthesia as a method of describing.. well, EVERYTHING.
What do you mean, Nina? you ask.
This. THIS is what I mean:
“Brownish green, the color of forgotten memories, abandoned dreams, and bitter gossip”
I just.. I can’t even… WHAT?!
“Aiko beckoned Scarlett onto a street lined with hanging lanterns, smelling of flowers and flutes and long-lost love”.
The smell of flowers I get, but how, exactly, does a flute smell like? Wood? Metal? And if so, then how, exactly, is that appealing?
*bangs head against wall*
And don’t even get me started on how love smells, though I suppose it makes more sense that smelling like flutes.
I really dont know what else to say, though. The only reason this isn’t a 1 star is because the twists were entertaining enough, I guess.
But overall? CARAVAL angered me, quite a bit.
Quite A LOT, actually.
But oddly enough, I WILL be reading Book 2. Why, I have no idea.