Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books (US), Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Publication Date: January 31st 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.
This book was one of many people’s anticipated reads for the year, however, as reviews started rolling out, not all were amazing but some absolutely adored it.
Now, when I first heard about this book, I was told it was about a magical travelling circus where the lines between magic and reality blured. Although this novel doesn’t essentially feel like a circus per se – i.e. there are no magical acts or performances like you would except to see – it did have a magical-act vibe throughout it. In my opinion, the setting of this book is what makes it unique and exciting – not necessarily the characters. We do get glimpses of the world as the characters play the game within Caraval but I wish we got a lot more of it. However, this book is the first in a duology, and therefore we could get more world-building in the sequel.
Moreover, moving onto the characters, Legend was initially portrayed as this exciting magical person that may be completely evil at heart. We didn’t necessarily see much of him (if that was even him when he did appear), which is understandable because he isn’t our main protagonist, but this book would have been so amazing if it was dual perspective – Scarlett’s and Legend’s (maybe the sequel will show us a little more about Legend). On the other hand, we had Scarlett who definitely annoyed me more than once with this protective-obsession she had with her sister – who, may I say, really doesn’t seem to care much about her. I did enjoy Scarlett’s love interest though and I think there may be more of him than what seems because we still have a lot of unanswered questions.
Overall, I did enjoy this book – it was easy to read, exciting and different – and the fact that I’m still guessing what was reality and what was magic is definitely a good sign. I personally would have loved to have seen more world-building (because Caraval is so magical!) and maybe I only kept reading this book because of that and not necessarily the characters, but I’m definitely going to be picking up the sequel for it as soon as it’s released to see where the story goes (because the ending of this book wasn’t the best – it definitely seemed rushed) and how much of the world we can see!