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Caraval  By  cover art

Caraval

By: Stephanie Garber
Narrated by: Rebecca Soler
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Publisher's Summary

This program includes a bonus interview with the author.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval - Stephanie Garber's sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game. 

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful - and cruel - father. Now Scarlett's father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the faraway once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. 

But this year Scarlett's long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season's Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. 

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. 

©2016 Stephanie Garber (P)2016 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

"Actor Soler's lively narration swiftly draws listeners into the magical spectacle at the center of Garber's YA novel." (Publishers Weekly, best audiobooks of 2017)

What listeners say about Caraval

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Fantastic narration but *very* purple prose

What did you like best about Caraval? What did you like least?

I loved the narrator. The plot had real potential but it often felt like certain plot points were repeated over and over and other aspects that needed more explanation were ignored. The flowery (often nonsensical) descriptions really started getting on my nerves.

What was most disappointing about Stephanie Garber’s story?

I was enchanted with the first two or three instances of her flowery descriptions, savouring them since they were so unique. But I soon realized these were not judiciously sprinkled throughout the story, they were crammed into every nook and cranny -- pretty much everything was described so flamboyantly it was ridiculous.

It seemed like the reader was meant to assume the main character had some special trait or skill that allowed her to taste/smell characteristics that most people simply see. It would have been nice to have spent some time learning more about that aspect of the character instead of the repetitious 'woe is me' over her missing sister.

What does Rebecca Soler bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I fell in love with Rebecca Soler when I got hooked on the Lunar Chronicles. She does amazing voices that never leave any question about which character is speaking. She hits the sweet spot for me -- never grating but not so soothing that I get distracted or doze off. She's one of my very favourite narrators.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

It would be impossible to make this into a movie until real smell-o-vision is invented. Too much of the book relies on the way the scenery smells and tastes.

Any additional comments?

If you found Alice (of Wonderland fame) to be an annoying, tedious character it's likely you'll think the same of Scarlett.

62 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Dazzling Debut

I can’t get Caraval out of my head. It was the first book I listened to this year, and I have the best kind of anxiety that I might not listen to anything better for the rest of 2017. It was just.that.good. I have been pushing it on my coworkers for a few weeks now, and two of them are finally listening and I simply can't wait to have friends to obsess over it with.

Two sisters – Scarlett and Tella – escape the tyranny of their abusive father and join an elaborate performance game hosted by the enigmatic Master Legend. Once at Caraval, Tella is kidnapped and finding her becomes the object of the game – but the lines between reality and the game quickly blur, and Scarlett begins to lose herself as she desperately searches for her sister. Garber’s language is gorgeous, as a listener you experience the rich colors and setting in the same way that Scarlett does, and narrator Rebecca Soler (Cinder) is the optimal companion through the dazzling and twisted world of Caraval.

53 people found this helpful

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Don't succumb to the hype

It seems that the main character, Scarlett, suffers from synesthesia, but that's her only, mildly, likeable trait. She's hysterical, insecure, indecisive, and incompetent. This book also suffers from too many plot twists. Each chapter made me feel like I was on an out of control tilt-a-whirl. This is a bad romance masqueraded as a fantasy book. The concept had my interest but I felt like there was a bait and switch.

46 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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pre-teen magical romance

There is great YA out there - this isn't it. Marred by purple prose and characters that are either black or white (evil or good) and largely un-fleshed out and without noticeable character growth, this is a pre-teen's romance book. There is a lot of swooning and a ton iof non-communication due to overwhelming teenage embarrassment. The plot is not original, and the magic system is murky. It's the poor man's The Night Circus. Don't believe the hype.

39 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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While many will love it, I did not.

I couldn't connect to the writing, the world, or the characters. Contains weird metaphors like "tasted like midnight" and "was the color of lost things". The world of Caraval was mostly lackluster with a few magical locales thrown in. Definitely not anything that swept me away. The romance felt forced and very angsty. Best thing about it was the premise, but sadly it just didn't deliver.

28 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

If I were a Caraval player, I'd ask for a refund.

The Skinny:
Caraval is a magical game hosted on an island every year by the mysterious Legend. Scarlet has been writing to Legend for years, asking him to host Caraval in her home island so she and her sister can attend. Legend finally responds to her last letter before she gets married and sends tickets for Scarlett, her sister Tella, and Scarlett's fiance (whom she's never met). But the game is being hosted on another island, and Scarlett doesn't know how to get herself and her sister there without getting caught by their abusive, psychopath father. Tella, however, has been planning to escape, and when Scarlett tells her about the tickets to Caraval, Tella devices a plan to get them there with the help of a young sailor (Julian). But when Scarlett arrives with Julian at the new island, Tella is nowhere to be found, and Scarlett soon learns that finding her sister is all part of the game.

Thoughts:
This book had the perfect ingredients for buttery, periwinkle greatness that fills the tongue with velvety joy, but the ingredients were poorly mixed and baked into a burnt, deflated pancake of moldy gloom and sour sprinkles the color of dejection green...

Ok it wasn't THAT bad, but you get the gist. That description, btw, should give you an idea of how the author likes to describe everything. Though I make fun of it, I have to admit it did add to the whimsical, magical theme of the story...except it's way overused, and half the time those descriptions made no sense:

"Aiko beckoned Scarlett onto a street lined with hanging lanterns, smelling of flowers and flutes and long-lost love"

Although I did like Scarlett, it annoyed me that she was constantly harping about being in Caraval to find/save her sister, and she reminded me of this every five minutes (in case I forgot because her actions said otherwise).

Another problem with the book is the dad. We are told he used to be a loving father until Scarlett's mother left them, and this somehow turned him into a villain who tortures his daughters and kills people who disobey. Yeah, right. I could see the dad being angry, depressed, detached, cold, indifferent, you name it. But an abusive father? I don't buy it. You don't become an abuser because your wife leaves you unless you were an abuser to begin with.

This book's biggest downfall, however, is its plot. Caraval is supposed to be this highly coveted, magical and whimsical game, but it was more along the lines of a bland scavenger hunt where all clues and answers conveniently fall into Scarlett's lap, and all the other players are irrelevant background fillers, thus robbing the story of any sense of competition, urgency or tension. All Caraval brings to the table are confusion and lies.

Bottom line: it's interesting and confusing enough to keep you invested in the story--and the characters are likable--but when all is revealed at the end, you might feel a little miffed.

23 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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great for the early-teen girl

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Great premise for the book, but for me it was too easy to see what was coming and the plot didn't hold together too well. The Venue for the game was poorly developed--it's one of those books where conveniently whenever the plot needs to need something extraordinary, it magically exists in this world. the game never seems to be adequately explained. how is this such a sought after past-time?

Would you be willing to try another book from Stephanie Garber? Why or why not?

I don't think i'd read another, but might suggest her to nieces and nephews

Could you see Caraval being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

might work really well as a movie

21 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Wants to be the Night Circus, but misses the mark.

I took a chance on this book after seeing fans of The Night Circus also enjoyed it. I wish these books had more in common than flowery descriptions. Throughout, Caraval is described as a magical place, but the author fails to follow through on the wonder and imagination. The wilting female protagonist heaves and sighs her way to a predictable, flat ending.

Narration wasn't anything out of the ordinary, though I tired of listening to her reedy wailing every time the protagonist cried 'Nooooooo!' Fans of The Night Circus, move along.

18 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Dreadful Drivel

While the narrator is wonderful, I felt bad for her having to read hours of this awful crap. This story is overwritten, full of stock characters, paper-thin plot devices and cliches of every description. Please do not bother.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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I wasn't wowed

Any additional comments?

I purchased this book based on its outstanding reviews. It's a teen book, but it seemed people of all ages absolutely adored it. Sadly, nothing about it felt magical or enchanted me. I love a good teen or YA book, but this one really was written at a teen level and nothing more. It was very cheesy and extremely childish. There were some lines that even made me feel embarrassed at how juvenile they were, particularly regarding the romance.

The main character was so annoying throughout the whole book... always doubting herself and others... going back and forth constantly in her head about everything over and over.

The story didn't always feel cohesive from scene to scene, and I feel like I only got to really see or explore the Caraval world on its surface layer. Nothing of the world was explored in much detail or depth to the point that I had a good picture in my mind of what it was like to be there. It felt disjointed, small, and unoriginal. Plus, there were scene changes that were abrupt and didn't bridge the gap or even explain how they came to be.

Although shallow and lacking in real substance, this book would probably be enjoyed by girls under age 14.

Rebecca Soler is a decent narrator, but after listening to the entire Cinder series, her voice now comes across too nasally and whiny for me. This was a difficult listen for me.

16 people found this helpful