My Pixie-in-law and I have agreed to do some one-two book reviews: a sins vs. wins, if you will. She elected to detail her least favorite points of this book, but before you click over to her review of the flaws – you might be interested in a few of Caraval’s virtues.

  1. The author is unafraid of poetical prose. Stephanie Garber does not shy away from moments like this one – descriptions which delight my artist-brain. “… her father’s guards warned her about the sparkling black sand of Del Ojos Beach. ‘It’s black because it’s really the burnt remains of pirate skeletons,’ they said. And, being eight, and slightly more foolish than now, she believed them. [… T]he lie had already buried itself inside of Scarlett, as lies that children are told often do. […] As she walked there in the night, the speckled blue moon winking eerie light over the unnatural sand, she thought back to that lie; she felt it sneaking into her slippers and moving between her toes as she neared Del Ojos’s rocky black cove.” Perhaps, however, a little fear of such prognostication would go a long way in cleaning up her story.
  2. Beautiful design and layout. As an artist, as someone who deals in colors and delights in composition, can I just say that the typography, opening pages, cover design, and /everything/ is just beautifully created? I can. And I will.
  3. A promising and colorful world. While details and depth can be lacking in places, the first several chapters hint at a complex and intricate fictional world quite unlike our own. I always give props to good premises, even if their completion could be better (but that’s straying close to ‘sin’ territory). There was scarcely mention of the world at large, but there were peculiar details to allow for vivid images and visual storytelling.
  4. Rum. I love rum. There is rum in this book, right at the beginning. Its mere presence a win, people.
  5. A reminder to adventure. Sometimes in life, we forget that risk can lead to wonderment – Garber reminds the reader with the very fundamentals of this story to chase over that horizon… to remember the magic.
  6. The twisting nonsense of dreaming. While I disapprove of books, generally, which remind me of dreams over reality, I must say that there is a certain surreal quality to Caraval which seems very dreamlike. Nothing can be trusted, obvious things are obvious, subtle things fall out of wardrobes. Are the dead truly dead? Nothing is real, with very special exceptions. It put me in an interesting head space, and I’ll give that novelty a ‘win’.

I’m not sure if I’ll recommend this book in the future (how can one recommend a dream?), but I definitely had an interesting time reading it.

Should you chose to embark on the voyage through Caraval’s pages… fait des beaux rêves.