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.
My Rating: 5 Stars
Alright, 2017, we need to have a talk. You are turning me into the Oprah of 5-Star book reviews – four 5-Star reviews in less than three months is TOO MANY! I’m not sure if this year is just a magical book year, or if January and February are great months and I’m bound to be disappointed for the remaining 10 months of the year. Frankly, this overflow of amazing books is making me nervous.
Now, Stephanie Garber, where have you been all of my life? With its beautifully descriptive imagery, and unpredictable plot, Caraval is a work of YA art. I was honestly shocked to learn that Caraval was her debut novel – it just didn’t read like a book written by a previously unpublished author.
In this novel, the main character Scarlett is thrown into the mysterious world of Caraval – a once a year performance in which invitees are able to participate. As soon as Scarlett and her sister Tella are delivered to Caraval by the debonair Julian, Tella goes missing and Scarlett realizes that she and her sister are part of this year’s performance. Over the course of five nights, Scarlett must decipher clues to find and save her sister.
Scarlett was certainly an interesting narrator. At the start of the novel she is timid, constantly worrying how her actions will affect her upcoming nuptials with a count she has never gotten to meet. As the story progresses, and with Julian’s help, she begins to get more and more bold. In her desperation to find Tella and uncover the mysteries of Caraval and its leader Legend, she blossoms into a sure of herself, confident character.
The romance between Scarlett and Julian was a fantastic slow burn. When the book begins, Scarlett is wary of Julian and his motives, however, the longer they know one another the more she starts to see the good in him. Garber did a great job of creating a male lead who not only compliments Scarlett, but is able to pull her out of her shell and make her want to take risks.
Finally, Caraval is extremely well paced. Given only five nights to save her sister, Scarlett’s chapters are action packed and full of drama. I was completely unsure who to trust, who was good, and who was evil. I think I convinced myself multiple times over the course of the book that a certain character was Legend (he always wears a different face and rarely introduces himself honestly). I desperately hope that Garber continues this series with a book from Tella’s perspective – I’d love to learn more about Legend and his tragic past.
My Takeaway: In what may be the best debut novel I’ve ever read, Stephanie Garber leads the reader on a stomach twisting, jaw dropping adventure that I couldn’t put down. I am beyond anxious to see what Garber has in store for her readers next.