Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Date: 31st January 2017
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.
For the last few months, I had been in a ready slump. I attempted to read 3 different books and got through 30-50% of them all and stopped there. I wasn’t sure what it was, but none of them was catching my attention. Feeling fed up, I went to twitter and set up a poll where people could decide what book I should read to pull me out of the slump. Caraval ended up winning by quite a bit, so I started it that night. Two days later and I had finished it and was left wondering where this book had been my whole life.
I honestly can’t remember the last time a book swept me away and transported me to a world where I forgot about everything else in my life. It was the most magical book I’ve ever read with gorgeous prose, incredible characters I cared about and twists & turns I didn’t know were possible. While I was reading I had this warm feeling throughout and struggled to put the book know when it was time to go to bed or finish my lunch break. I was hooked and left wanting more when I turned the last page.
Let’s start with the world of Caraval because it was spectacular. I loved the way Garber describes her settings because I can see it so clearly in my head, full of vivid colours and delightful scents. Some people might not like purple prose, but I for one love it and this book has a lot of it. There are strange and wonderful shops full of secret entryways and if you want access to them or to buy gorgeous gowns it all comes at a price, something that matters to the players such as a secret. The premise of Caraval being a game that is to be played by multiple people drew me in straight away, everyone fighting for a chance to win a wish. As you’re reading, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is an illusion, but that makes it even more fun to read. There are so many secrets waiting to be uncovered and you never know what will happen until it does.
The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective, a girl who is supposed to be getting married but is instead whisked off to Caraval and has to participate in the game to get her sister back. At first, I was unsure about Scarlett as she can be a bit over the top at times, but as the story progressed I found myself rooting for her. She gets caught up in the game, something that often has consequences for her, but she is determined to find her sister and win the game, whatever it takes. After being taken to the island by a sailor called Julian, she spends a lot of time with him and a romance soon blossoms. I say romance lightly because it is more of an insta-love in this book, but that might change in the sequels. Either way, I enjoyed the dialogue and scenes they shared together, showing their chemistry. I was invested in their journey together and was pleasantly surprised by some things that occurred near the end of the book. Julian is definitely one of my favourite characters, mainly because he’s rugged, hilarious and kind of the bad-boy type. Who doesn’t love that?
There were a number of side characters who make appearances throughout and who I’m sure will feature more in the other books. Scarlett’s father is awful and infuriated me with how cruel he is, but the only character I’m not sure on is Tella, Scarlett’s sister. She didn’t feature much in the book, but early glimpses showed her as being a little selfish and impulsive, but towards the end, we are shown a different side of her. I won’t spoil it for you because it is one of the bigger twists in the book.
The twists and turns were so incredible, I almost got whiplash. I think they are part of the reason why the pace was so quick. Something happened in every chapter that made me invested in the story and the characters. I kept saying to myself ‘just one more chapter’ but it was never just one and before I knew it, I was finished! There were even a few times where I gasped out loud while reading. It was that shocking.
I’m not sure what else I can say apart from I adored it. Nothing I say will do it justice, but I tried my best to articulate my thoughts. I finished it a week ago and it’s taken me that long just to get my thoughts in order. This atmospheric mystery is one of my favourite reads for the year so far and I am so excited to buy the remaining two books in this series to see what Garber does with the world and characters.
This is easily a five-star read for me!