Author: Stephanie Garber
Publishing Date: 31st January 2017 – Hodder and Stoughton
Genre: YA, Fantasy
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. (Goodreads)
Before reading Caraval I wasn’t sure what to expect, all I knew is that a lot of people were raving about it. Now that I’ve read the book, I can see why – this book is filled with adventure, romance and mystery, all that make the components for a fun book (although it is not without its faults). So, without further ado…
In terms of character, I was really intrigued by Legend and the mystery that surrounded him. The opening chapter with all the letters was a great way of introducing him, and the fact that we never know what he looks like adds to the sense of mystery to him. I kept suspecting every single character we met at Caraval of being him, which was both frustrating but also fun to guess.
As for the protagonist, I enjoyed Scarlett’s character due to her determination for finding her sister, and her conflicting feelings about Julian and her father and her fiancée. Her dynamic with Julian was fun to read, although I was always on edge since you don’t really know much about him, and there was a tiny part of me suspecting him of being Master Legend. The development of their feelings was definitely enjoyable to read, although I do think their feelings developed a little too quickly considering Scarlett was supposed to be looking for her sister. Speaking of which, for the longest time, Tella got on my last nerve. I found her naivety to be incredibly annoying, until we get to the end of the book and yet another twist is revealed…
The story itself was very easy to get through, and I think it flowed really well due its fast pace. Caraval was a magical place to read about, and I appreciated all the mechanics, like how people slept during the day and came alive at night, or how secrets worked as currency. The world building was fun to read about, especially all the shops and all the magical things they offer. Some of the metaphors didn’t work for me, but they weren’t too distracting to be a problem (the moon was described a lot). The level of mystery kept me engaged since I was constantly trying to work out the clues that Scarlett had to follow to find her sister (side note: I failed miserably) and the build-up to finding Scarlett was really intense, especially when it became apparent that Legend might be more sinister than first appeared.
Towards the end of the book we get a lot of explanations for Legend and Scarlett’s kidnap and etc… and while it was great to fully understand everything, I do wish we could have gotten this information in a different way, since it felt like info dumping. I will say that some of the things we learnt did make Tella more likeable however.
Overall, Caraval was a fun fantasy novel fuelled by mystery and intrigue. While there were some info-dumpey parts towards the end, overall I think this world was set up well and captivated my imagination. The way the novel ended suggests there will be a sequel, so I look forward to seeing what happens next with these characters.