Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Published: 31st January 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
“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.”
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.
I loved this book…A LOT…so prepare for lots of gushing…
Caraval is a beautifully, fantastically dark and wonderful novel. Despite being Garber’s debut novel, the story-telling and writing reads with such experience and expertise in its crafting of language, that it felt as though I was reading the words of an author at least a few books into their career. The descriptions were so vivid, and the use of colour to describe emotions, feelings and people, were so interesting and well done. I can already tell that Garber is going to become a new favourite author, if her writing style in this book is anything to go by.
The story follows two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, and although we only really follow Scarlett in this novel, Tella’s character still formed so clearly in my head, simply through Scarlett’s observations and thoughts. Scarlett is the older sister, and the practical, realistic one of the pair. I loved her character arc throughout this story, and thought that she was the perfect character type to place in a setting where reality and practicality was not going to be wholly helpful to her. Scarlett is, however, probably the only character in the whole story, that is clear to the reader. Every other character has a mystery surrounding them, that forced the reader to constantly question each one of them.
And the story itself was utterly marvellous. At its heart, this is a mystery novel, and it really messed with my head. In a good way! I was certain that I knew what was going on, and so sure that I had guessed who certain people were; who was good and who was bad. But I was so wrong at every point. The twists and turns in this book were so crazy and unexpected, and I was in awe the whole way through. It was only really in the final 100 pages that all of these twists began, but once one mystery is uncovered, a whole roller-coaster of discoveries and mysteries is unleashed upon the reader.
Throughout the entire book, the characters, and reader, is reminded to “remember it’s all a game”, and that “We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance”, and yet despite these multiple warnings, I was submerged into this blended world of magic and reality, to the point where I felt as trapped as if I was at Caraval myself.
Caraval was a truly amazing book, and had the right blend of magic, mystery, romance, adventure, and twists and turns, that it was the perfect fantasy story for people of all ages and lovers of all types of stories.