Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Hardcover, 407 pages
Published January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books
~Rating: 4.5/5 stars~
Remember, it’s only a game…
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.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself to magic in this world.”
I fell in love with this book from day one when I read the premise, and I definitely was not disappointed when actually reading the book. Talk about some amazing world-building! It was even more incredible than I could have ever hoped for it to be.
From the very first page up until the last, there was never a dull moment while reading Caraval. It was just an enigma wrapped in magic and deception. One minute you think you have the story and the characters all figured out, the next minute the storyline takes you on a completely different direction! There were just so many twists, turns, and puzzles that every page leaves you hanging at the edge of your seat.
“It looked like a storybook come to life. She peered down at bright pointy rooftops, moss-covered towers, gingerbread cottages, gleaming gold bridges, blue-brick streets, and bubbling fountains, all lit by candled lamps that hung everywhere, giving an appearance of time that was neither day nor night.”
Caraval is a magical game that is played once a year. Not everyone can go, but the lucky ones are sent tickets, and once they arrive they are able to choose if they’d like to watch the game or actually play the game. The story follows two sisters voyage to Isla de los Sueños, after being invited to attend this years Caraval. Here, a mystery must be solved, but as every participant has been told repeatedly- It´s only a game!
Scarlett and Donatella had a beautiful sibling dynamic, the protectiveness they tend to develop when they are left to fend for themselves. Oh and who doesn’t absolutely love the added touch of an abusively powerful father and absent mother. While this book had all the elements to create the perfect heroine, this is where it came up short. Between perfectly placed opportunities, scarlet could have been the ideal character, abused but strong, loving yet un-trusting of the world, and ultimately surprising. But she just wasn’t. I mean yes I did like her, but I could have loved her you see. Between being indecisive and uncertain, she seemed to keep emphasizing a very false sense of caution. I mean if you were so worried about your sister getting lost in the caraval, why whisp away time playing into their hands. I mean yes, if a person is only mildly concerned, they will fret and then go on about whatever they were doing, but when you suspect her life may be in danger, wouldn’t you be tearing the world in two to find them?
I think mainly Scarlett’s bravery seemed slightly more exaggerated than the reality of her actions. She wasn’t the heroine I usually adore, but I did like her very much though.
“Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold onto. But not much is needed.”
Although Caraval didn’t really feel like it took place in a circus/carnival like I was hoping it would, the world building was still very mystical. Clues and objects are paid in your deepest secrets, greatest fear, or even days of your life. There are tunnels that drive you mad and make you question what is real and what is simply part of the game. Caraval was just full of so many surprises that’ll keep you turning the page. I had so many theories right from the very beginning that kept changing and evolving as the story progressed. I was so immersed in trying to crack the big mystery that was Caraval and Legend. Remember that it’s just a game. But is it really? 😉 This book will definitely leave you with more questions than answers in the end so prepare to be mind blown!
I definitely can’t wait for book two because something tells me that Stephanie has more tricks and magic up her sleeve for her readers! 🙂 I highly recommend it!
Stephanie Garber grew up in northern California, where she was oftem compared to Anne Shirley, Jo March and other fictional characters with wild imaginations and stubborn streaks. When she’s not writing, Stephanie teaches creative writing and dreams of her next adventure. Legend has yet to send her a ticket to Caraval.