Publication date: January 31st, 2017
Reviewed by: Nicole
*Library staff received an advanced reader copy through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review*
This release has gotten quite a lot of publicity in the library circuit and was selected as a buzz book for the fall and winter. Even Entertainment Weekly released the first 2 chapters in an article back in April of 2016, so expect to see more of this once the release comes! Film rights have also been purchased by Twentieth Century Fox.
First novels can be a gamble as new writers work out the kinks of their stories, particularly if they are building an entirely new world, but this one was really well done. If you’ve read The Night Circus or watched Pirates of the Caribbean, then some of the vibes will feel very similar–with some Alice in Wonderland thrown in. Though, I want to add that I think this story stands well on it’s own.
Caraval is a big elaborate game orchestrated by Legend, the faceless ringmaster, and the audience has the option to participate for the grand prize of one wish. The game lasts for 5 days and participants learn quickly that it’s a labyrinth of lies and they have no clue what to believe or who can be trusted. I read a lot of mysteries so I figured I would be able to guess at some of the twists, but I liked that in every new chapter, something previously thought to be one thing would transform and no character was to be trusted. There was so much doubt that I began to wonder what to believe and I questioned everything. And even though I read mysteries, I take my young adult books at face value. If something appears to be a fact of that world I accept it with almost no questions asked, and yet this one will keep you on your toes!
I also enjoyed that this story seemed to combine some elements of other fantasy series, but also held it’s own in the genre with really elaborate world-building. I’ve always enjoyed villains–particularly when there are interesting back stories that lead into how a character came to be “evil.” I have to ask myself how much is forgivable? One of my favorite types of characters would be anti-heroes and I think that Legend is definitely the kind of character that could fall into that archetype once more is revealed.
I will say that this is by no means perfect, it is very enjoyable and I really got into it after the first 50 pages. The opening was a bit slow to set up the characters and the world, and adding in the theme of “evil father” felt very stereotypical in the beginning. I can chalk up a lot of these issues to it being a first novel, particularly at how much the author excels in the storytelling as it progresses. I am really looking forward to the next book and was excited to learn that instead of a trilogy this is a duology.