Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: KindleEdition, January 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

I was very conflicted over how to rate and review this book. I’ve had Caraval on my Kindle for a little while and was excited to finally get round to reading it. So many people love this series and the concept sounded really intriguing. Unfortunately I didn’t love it from the start. I didn’t enjoy the first half all that much, but things picked up in the second half and I found myself a lot more absorbed.

I can’t quite place my finger on why, but for some reason I just wasn’t hooked from the opening few chapters. Even once Scarlett reached Caraval, I didn’t feel engaged. I was expected to be enchanted by this story, but in the first half I was actually a little bored. I found Scarlet to be an irritating protagonist at the start. Her thoughts were very repetitive and I just didn’t connect with her character. She didn’t want to be there. So I didn’t want to be there. I think if Scarlett had been more excited about the magic and wonder of Caraval, I would have been too.

Scarlett’s focus is on finding Tella and there is some jeopardy around that, but we don’t get to know Tella that well at the beginning of the book, so I wasn’t really invested in the goal of finding her. I liked that she isn’t the cliché sweet sister, but I didn’t find her particularly likeable from what little we see of her before she disappears, so I just wasn’t worried about her. Later we do get to see there is more to Tella, but for most of the book I didn’t like her character.

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Top 5 Tuesday: Series I Want To Start

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bionic Book Worm! There are a lot of series hanging around on my TBR list that I want to start reading. But I also have a lot that I’m part way through and need to finish, so I’m trying to balance my time between continuing series and starting new ones!

Nikolai duology by Leigh Bardugo – I love the Grishaverse so of course this book made the list. But I still need to read Crooked Kingdom first before I can read King of Scars. I’m intrigued to see where Nikolai’s story goes after the events of the Shadow and Bone trilogy.

Legend series by Marie Lu – The first book I read by Marie Lu was The Young Elites and I loved her writing style so I’m keen to read more of her work. I still need to read the last book in the Young Elites trilogy but I want to start reading Legend too.

The Last Hours series by Cassandra Clare – Chain of Gold is the first in a new series in Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhutners world. I’m still obsessed with her books so I’m excited to start her next series.

Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness – The premise of these books is really intriguing. I bought a set of the series a few years ago but haven’t read them yet.

Camelot Rising series by Kiersten White – I haven’t read any of Kiersten White’s books before but I just knew I had to read this King Arthur retelling. I’ve always loved anything inspired by Arthurian legends since I was a child and I still do.

What series are you excited to start? Let me know in the comments!

Fairyloot Chain of Gold Unboxing

My Fairyloot Chain of Gold Collector’s Edition box finally arrived! It was delayed by more than a month due to the coronavirus crises, which was obviously completely out of Fairyloot’s hands. I felt they did a good job of keeping us informed about the delays as they got new information. Since I ordered it in January it meant there was quite a long wait to finally get my hands on my first Collector’s Edition box and I was super excited to open it and see what was inside.

Included in the box were a special edition of Chain of Gold and four items, one of which was already revealed by Fairyloot to be a replica of the Mortal Cup. So let’s see what was inside…

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Top 5 Tuesday: Popular Books I Haven’t Read Yet

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Bionic Book Worm. This week’s topic is all about popular books I haven’t read yet. There are a lot! Here are five that stand out as ones that I really want to read!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – I haven’t read this book yet because I don’t read much contemporary. I’m much more of a sci-fi and fantasy kind of person. But I do every now and then like getting away from fantasy and reading a bit of contemporary. So I will read this book. I have it on my shelf. I’m just waiting for the contemporary mood to strike me.

Red Queen Victoria Aveyard – I think this book has been haunting my Kindle. It’s been on there for years. I wanted to read this book so much when it first came out, but it’s one of those that I just still haven’t got round to reading.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber – This series is really popular! I have it on my Kindle and as it happens I’m planning to read it next. There have just been so many amazing YA fantasy releases over the last few years that I feel like I’m still playing catch up with them.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – This is another book that has unfortunately been on my Kindle quite a while. A sci-fi fairy tale retelling sounds right up my street. I know there’s a lot of love for this series. I will read this book soon…

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – The blurb says this series is inspired by Ancient Rome which sounds really interesting and it’s had such good reviews. I definitely want to read this book.  

Are there any popular books you haven’t read yet but plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (eARC)

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Harper Voyager

Pages: 464

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

Liberty

1828 and the citizens of Paris still mourn in the wake of their failed revolution. Among them, in the dark alleys and crumbling cathedrals of the city, the most wretched have gathered into guilds of thieves, assassins – and worse. Together they are known as The Court of Miracles.

Family

Eponine has lost more than most. When her father, Thénardier, sells her sister to the Guild of Flesh she makes a promise to do anything she can to get her sister back, even if that means joining the Court of Miracles, the very people keeping her sister a slave.

Treachery

Eponine becomes perhaps the greatest thief the Court has ever known, finding a place among them and gaining another sister, Cosette. But she has never forgotten the promise she made, and if she’s to have any hope of saving one sister, she will have to betray the other.

This beautiful reimagining of Les Misérables tells the stories of your favourite characters and what might have happened if the French Revolution had not come to pass.

Thank you so much to Harper Voyager and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was one of my most anticipated releases of the year so I was super excited to get my hands on an advanced copy. It’s been billed as a retelling of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book meets Six of Crows, which are certainly very attention-grabbing comparisons. This is a dark reimagining of 1800s France and that darkness and grittiness comes through really well. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t as good as I’d been hoping. I enjoyed reading it. I was engaged and absorbed throughout thanks to the great writing, but I didn’t connect with it.

This book didn’t meet my expectations for a retelling. In some ways the Jungle Book retelling element works better than the Les Mis element does. The villain of the book is known as the Tiger and (thanks to the actions of our protagonist) is after Ettie, which seems to be representing the tiger from The Jungle Book, Shere Khan, being after Mowgli. It includes most of the characters from Les Misérables and there is the element of the revolution and the barricades, but it doesn’t retell the book in any meaningful way. To be honest, I felt that this book might actually have been stronger if it had not been written as a retelling of Les Misérables. It just didn’t really feel like a retelling. For many of the characters, there’s too much reliance on readers’ knowledge of the original characters, rather than doing something different with them or developing them as individuals separate from the original work.

The book is set into separate sections with some quite big time jumps in between that make for a disjointed reading experience. The one that caused the most problems for me comes early on in the book. We rejoin Nina about to enact her plan to get her older sister, Azelma, back from the Tiger, but at the cost of her younger adoptive sister Ettie. After setting this in motion, Nina very quickly changes her mind and ends up needing to protect Ettie (who she put in danger in the first place) and then the rest of the book revolves around keeping Ettie safe from the Tiger. But we don’t know anything about Ettie or her relationship with Nina due to the time jump, so this shift comes a bit out of the blue. We don’t have any understanding of their relationship or why Nina would move heaven and earth to protect a character we only just met.

At the start, Nina is driven by her goal of helping Azelma. But then when her goal shifts to protecting Ettie it’s like she’s completely forgotten about setting Azelma free. Because of the time skip, this sudden shift in the protagonist’s goal is jarring. We’ve only just met Ettie and there isn’t anything at first to show that Nina cares about Ettie as a sister. Their relationship develops well and I enjoyed seeing the two characters interact later on. But at first, there’s nothing to show why Nina would suddenly change her mind and give up on her plan to save Azelma and instead focus on protecting Ettie, a character we know nothing about and don’t yet care for. One moment, Nina is willing to sacrifice Ettie to save Azelma, which she has been carefully planning, and the moment she puts that plan in motion she makes this sudden u-turn.

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Book Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance  

Publishing Info: January 2017 by Simon and Schuster Children’s UK (first published 2016)

Pages: 669

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

I have loved Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series for what feels like a very long time. City of Bones was my introduction to her world many, many years ago. She releases books so quickly, I’m trying to catch up! I thought I might get bored of them, but I haven’t so far. I love returning to the world of the Shadowhunters every time I pick up one of her books.

Lady Midnight is the first in the Dark Artifices series and is set a few years after The Mortal Instruments. When I finished reading it, I just sort of sat at stared at my bedroom wall for a minute because I had so many feelings about this book. The characters and their relationships are what makes this book so good. I just became so invested in the Blackthorn family. And Cassandra Clare is really good at giving you hope for characters and then tearing your heart to shreds (in the way a good book does).

Emma and Julian are the two main characters, but all of the others stole my heart too. From Cristina, to Mark, Livvy, Ty, Dru and little Tavvy. I loved seeing the family interact and how Julian has had to bring them up, they’re like his own children despite him being their older brother. It was also great seeing how Mark changed over the course of the book and I’m interested to see where his character goes in the next book.  

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