Write Perspective: Caraval

 

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Book Description:

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 far-away, 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.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, beautiful scenery description, diverse personality group

Review: Where to begin?  The first thing I’d like to point out is how easily it was for my to fall into the rhythm of the world that Stephanie Garber created.  Her opening scene already had be empathetic towards the protagonist, Scarlett, even though I didn’t know too much about her yet.

Then, we’re swept away to the magical world that is Caraval, now paired with the love interest, Julian.  I’ve always been one who loved the dark, mysterious man.  Perhaps that’s why I was shipping the two from the get-go.  My only complaint about their relationship is how forgiving of his mistakes she is time after time, with little fight against it.  Still, he was so complex with a history that I was dying to figure out.  I have to insert my favorite quote in the book here: “Not quite sure how far she’d already fallen, she imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars come out.”  I enjoyed his progression throughout the story, and how he softened throughout the novel in regards to his willingness to falling in love.

The relationships between the characters was one of the best parts, in my opinion. Scarlett and her sister Tella’s personalities bounced off of each other in a way that only sisters can.  Having two sisters of my own, I could feel the weight that Scarlett felt trying to save her sister.  I loved her struggling between loving Tella and loving Julian, and fighting between her own desires and her protectiveness of Tella.  Even the minor characters had very strong personalities that made you instantly like or hate them.  She was constantly meeting new characters on her journey, trying to decide who was friend or foe.  I liked one in particular, Aiko, who just popped in randomly and was awesome.

Caraval itself was a world I’d love to visit.  It balanced magical curiosity and imminent danger in a way that I have to give applause to Garber.  You wanted to see its wonders and experience everything all at once, even though you knew there was something not quite right.  I felt like I was walking right along with Scarlett and could see and feel its pull all around me.

I think what I love most about this book is how I was constantly filled with so many questions that I had such a need to know the answer to right then and there.  Garber knows exactly how to give you just enough information to wanting more.  This is the first book in a long time that I read in one sitting.

 

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

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Free Book Reviews

I’d very much like to start reviewing books, if you have any that you’ve written/published or would suggest as a good read!  I’m partial to fantasy and science fiction, although don’t mind branching out on occasion.  I also want to give priority to newer authors, as a review does much more for them than the bigger names.  If you have a book in mind, please comment on this post or email me to discuss!  I would post my review here on my website, on Amazon, and Goodreads.

Write Perspective: A Spy in the House

Book Description: Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

Good for people who enjoy: strong female leads, British history, mysteries, minority protagonists

Review: The first point about this story that I enjoyed was uniqueness of Y.S. Lee’s approach to the mid-1800s.  She doesn’t focus on all the aspects that most authors tend to romanticize.  Her protagonist, Mary Quinn, is an orphan of Asian immigrant – who were a very mistreated minority at the time.  The Agency itself is a stab at the sexism in that period, as it uses the fact that people underestimated women to their advantage.  It also includes a romantic aspect, although that’s by no means the main point of the story being told.  I approve of her love interest, as he’s not threatened by Mary’s strength – although perhaps surprised.  The bantering between the two makes for some humorous moments.  There’s also very good attention to historical detail that made me extremely interested in that time period.  Lee brilliantly uses every part of that era to the benefit of the story.

Although there are some moments where Mary messes up, she follows into the stereotype of a protagonist following almost too naturally into role of investigator.  There is suspense in finding out who committed the crime, but I never felt worried for any of the main characters’ safety.  This hurt the attempted tension in some of the major scenes.  With that said, Mary is still presented as a very sympathetic character who I’ve personally grown to care for.

Overall, it’s an interesting plot with a likeable protagonist in a brilliant time period.  The fact the main character is of Asian heritage makes me so excited because that is so underrepresented in Victorian Era literature.  I’ve already bought the second (and third…) and would strongly recommend this to be put on anyone’s to-read list!

Overall Rating: 4 stars

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