Review: Caraval

Title: Caraval (Caraval, #1)

Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Format: Hardcover, 416 pages

Publishing Information: January 31st 2017 by A

Source: ARC for Review


Book Summary:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval—Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved 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 far-away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic 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.

Caraval was sitting on my shelf for a few months before I decided to pick it up. During that time, the buzz around the book grew, which made me even more excited to pick it up. I really enjoyed reading Caraval and it helped get me out of a reading slump. It was utterly mesmerizing and magical — if you’re looking for an enchanting book to curl up this winter, I definitely recommend this one. 

Caraval follows the story of two sisters, Scarlett and Donatella (Tella) who live on a small island. Their life has been quite tough due to an abusive and unhinged father but one of they have been able to escape from their reality is through stories of Caraval. Growing up, they heard stories about the magical and mysterious Caraval performances and have dreamed to be a part of it. However, after a few years Scarlett gave up her childish dreams and resigned herself to an arranged marriage in order to protect her sister. However, one day she receives an unexpected invitation to join a Caraval performance and quickly finds herself in a dangerous game to find her sister who is kidnapped as part of Caraval.

Scarlett would do anything to save her sister, including marrying a guy she has never met, so that makes her the perfect player for Caraval. In Caraval, you don’t know what is real and what is not — players’ limits are tested to see how far they would go to win the game. In Scarlett’s game, the true prize is winning back her sister and there is no limit to what she would do to ensure her sister’s safety. I really like seeing the strong sister bond between Scarlett and Tella.

Scarlett is the more serious sister of the two and really thinks through all of her actions. She is not a big risk-taker. However, Tella is more carefree and wants nothing more than to be independent from her father. They really balanced each other out and I liked seeing their love for each other outshine any differences that they had.

My favorite part of Caraval was Stephanie’s writing — it’s so incredibly beautiful and detailed. I was able to clearly imagine the magical world of Caraval and the whole experience of the performances was perfectly captured. I loved seeing all of the different layers in the book and even the small things, such as a dress that changed depending on Scarlett’s mood, were such a delight to read about. She painted a vivid picture of Caraval and I felt completely absorbed by the story. 

My only issue with Caraval was with the ending. It was slightly confusing how certain things were wrapped up but there was also an awesome (light) cliffhanger/mystery reveal that began to explain things more deeply. I’m really excited to see how things continue in book 2 — I have a sense that we will see a lot more action and there will be a ton more revelations.

Fantasy fans will definitely want to pick up this mysterious, vibrant, and magical (I feel like I’ve been using this word a lot but it honestly is the best way to describe this story!) book. I’ll definitely be picking up the second book. 

3 thoughts on “Review: Caraval

  1. I absolutely LOVED Caraval! It was definitely magical (seriously, no better word to describe this book), particularly in the way that Caraval itself came to life. I really feel like it would translate wonderfully into a visual medium, so I’d love to see this one made into a film one day 😉

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