by Stephanie Garber
Published on January 31, 2017 by Flatiron Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .
Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and 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.
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How do I describe thee, Caraval? With your mysterious magic and your twisting plot? The captivating gleam, a promise of a story still unfolding. And an ending sure to tug at even the most stubborn of readers, helpless against the spell you’ve woven.
Caraval is a debut that is sure to haunt your dreams, intrigue and delight, and make you wonder: was it really just a game?
I always struggle to write reviews for amazing books because they end up 90% gush and 10% actually useful (case-in-point Nevernight). But Caraval basically destroyed my 2017 reading list. We’re headed to a little island where sisters Scarlett and Tella are kept under the forceful thumb of their father. Until the day that tickets arrive to attend the illustrious Caraval. It means leaving home and risking their father’s wrath but could it be worth it?
My opinion might be a bit biased but I’d certainly say it was worth it and more. Scarlett is cautious and will do whatever it takes to protect her sister. Even though there’s a romance woven into the story this bond of sisterhood dominates the story in a way that I rarely see (and I loved it!). You really experience Scarlett’s growth from the first page until the very end, from that cautious girl afraid to see the truth of the world to someone willing to fight for what she loves, consequences be damned. This is a young woman willing to die for her sister, and that’s something commend.
She spends a decent portion of Caraval with the sailor Julian who is much more than he appears. It starts with the raw chemistry right off the page but you’ll be lusting after Julian long after that passes. Theirs is a romance that develops slowly through the bonds of teamwork and they’re certainly not unfamiliar with lies and obstacles in their paths. They have a romance that bounces back and forth while Scarlett wonders what’s real and what’s not but I shipped them so hard that I (almost) didn’t care how their relationship ended.
Who the hell am I kidding? I ship these two so freaking much that if Garber breaks them up I might perish away from withdrawal.
Like, if I had to choose between Tella and Julian to save — sister or the sexy sailor — well, you know who I’d pick. 😉
But Caraval… CARAVAL.
Sure, the characters were great (like seriously, though, great, wonderfully written) but my main reason for loving this book is the world itself. We only get a glimpse of the magical Caraval where only a select few are invited for the 5-day “game.” Secret tunnels, clues that appear out of thin air, and a place where magic truly exists (compared to the world outside). It reminded me of when I was a kid and would imagine a secret place where wishes came true like in the books I read. Funny how a book brings back something you’d likely otherwise never think about.
Have I mentioned the writing? No? WELL let me tell you…
It’s actually a little odd. Not in the weird sense but in that I didn’t think the writing was something out-of-this-world yet I couldn’t stop reading. I was hooked and then some. Perhaps the magic of Caraval leaked into the prose itself?
Yet of everything — the characters, the world, the writing — there was the underlying question: how much of Caraval is actually a game?
And let me tell you, that ending was deplorable. Disgusting. Horrible, for Garber to trick us so. Because you will not see it coming. You’re going to want to throw the book across the room and hug it to your chest all at once. It’s going to be a cliffhanger that haunts you until we have the next book which is way to far away.
Are you still doubting about whether you should read this book or not? If so I highly suggest returning to the beginning of this review and reading once more.
Now… someone hold me while I slip into Caraval withdrawal.