Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 2017
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
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.
Before I start I must give a warning for spoilers in this review.
This book is a tbr veteran of mine if I ever had one. I’ve owned two copies of this book – that’s right, two – for over a year now but for some reason it’s taken me forever to pick it up. I think I was nervous. I had such high expectations of this book and everyone kept raving about it. After I read The Night Circus everyone told me that I had to read this next and I must say I can see why. This book is full of magic and intrigue but we keep getting reminded that Caraval is “only a game.”
I really enjoyed this book, but I don’t think it was the most incredible thing I’d ever read and I think the reason for that is that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. Our protagonist Scarlett was likeable enough but comes across incredibly naive. Everything she seemed to strive towards in the novel almost felt like the stakes weren’t high enough – which is odd considering she was trying to escape, and save her sister, from their abusive father.
Julian was interesting as a character but I could tell from the start that there wasn’t something quite right about him. I think I guessed from about 80 pages in that he was Legend, and then I changed my mind, and then I thought he was again until we find out that (SPOILER) he’s Legend’s brother. I actually really like how this turned out because it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but I feel that the mystery of his identity is the only thing that made his character interesting.
It wasn’t until the final part of the novel that I actually found myself interested in any of the characters. Tella, when we find out her motives, was highly intriguing to me and I can’t wait to find out more about her. I liked that Dante came back to life and the final letter was very interesting and I can’t wait to find out more in the next book.
Dreams that time true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people don’t wake up.
The plot and the magic is what made this novel for me. I found the world building exquisite. The island is beautiful and magnificent yet unforgiving, as we find out from the start. Everything about it screams cunning, rich with rules that are constantly changing and mind tricks that come out of nowhere. I would read a book about the island itself and it was definitely one of my favourite parts of this entire story. The magic was to die for; it’s unlike any magic I’ve encountered before which was even more interesting, especially considering there was supposedly no magic – with it all being trickery and illusion – while at the same time everything in this world dripped magic, with magic in the soil, in the air, in the soul.
Have you read Caraval? What was your favourite part of this story?