I really enjoyed Caraval - it was different to what I thought it would be, but was really readable with great characters and worldbuilding and with a plot that just didn’t stop.
This was actually one of the things I liked most - that Caraval had so many twists and turns - it kept me guessing right to the end. Just when I thought I had it all figured out and the story couldn’t possibly change again, it did. Even though Scarlett is told that everything that happens during Caraval is just an elaborate performance, everything gets a bit too real. People start dying- surely that can’t be part of a performance, can it? And then the ringmaster -the mysterious Legend - starts to show his true, creepy colours. Or does he? Everything changes so much that it left my head reeling a bit. Even the epilogue had me guessing and it’s left the book wide open for a sequel.
There’s a really wide cast of characters and while sometimes it felt a bit like character soup they were all really individual and well-formed. The author gave them all some interesting little quirks that made them stand out and lent to the worldbuilding. Sometimes the quirks were only things like an eye patch or a unicycle, but it all contributed to the atmosphere.
The relationship between the two sisters was very well drawn and very real. Both girls had their faults but despite their outward differences they were utterly devoted to each other. Scarlett could be a bit too straight-laced sometimes and I wished she would just loosen up a bit, but she was a good foil to Tella’s self-centredness.
I think Caraval will draw inevitable comparisons with The Night Circus, but I enjoyed Caraval miles more. I thought the plot was an awful lot stronger and had better characterisation. Definitely recommended if you like twisty plots and fantastical goings-on.