Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: January 31st 2017
Format: Hardback (402 pages)
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: ★★★★★
“Remember, it’s only a game.”
Caraval was one of my most highly anticipated releases but as we got closer to release date I was starting to worry that the huge amount of hype surrounding this mysterious book would leave it falling short for me. I am SO happy to report that this did not happen and this book is in fact as marvellous and wonderful as everyone has been saying. From beginning to end, I could barely put down this magical story and was completely sucked into the world Stephanie Garber has created.
Caraval tells the story of sisters Scarlett and Donatella (or Tella). The girls have been brought up by their father since their mother disappeared and are desperate for a brighter future. Scarlett has been writing to Legend, the mysterious leader of Caraval, and both girls wish to attend this magical experience before Scarlett is married to a Count she has never met. When their wish finally comes true, they discover that Caraval is not all that they imagined, will they come out the other side?
I love that this book opened with a series of letters from Scarlett to Legend. They looked really pretty on the opening pages and immediately set the scene of just how much Scarlett wants to experience Caraval for herself. It definitely added a level of intrigue into what exactly Caraval was. There was also a gorgeous map at the front of the book and I can’t not talk about how gorgeous the covers are. I have two copies so far and I love the hidden covers we have here in the UK, they are beautiful.
This book was a lot darker than I was originally expecting. I had somehow convinced myself that Caraval was going to be this lovely, happy circus-esque place but it was so much darker than that. The people in Caraval were creepy on a number of different levels. Some of them seemed pure evil whilst others left my skin tingling and I did not know who I could trust except for Scarlett. The writing definitely threw me right into the story with her. The various shops and stalls gave me some serious Knockturn Alley vibes: where else would you find a shop where you pay for a dress with a day of your life? I also found it difficult to extinguish between what was real in Caraval and what might not have been. Who was an actor? Who was a contestant? I really enjoyed this element of the book a lot and the feelings it created in me are a true testament to how wonderful Stephanie Garber’s writing is.
On another dark note, this book could be triggering to readers and I feel that it’s important to acknowledge that in my review. Scarlett and Tella’s father is an incredibly abusive man and throughout the book we see the effect of his physical and emotional abuse of the sisters. He is absolutely evil and I really hated him throughout the book (which I’m sure is the point). I’m not going to expand any more on that except to be mindful of this point if you are going to read it and this could trigger you. I’d be happy to talk in more detail about that to anyone who may want to know more.
This book is overflowing with emotions and I honestly felt like I was being dragged up, down, sideways, backwards and any other direction possible. One minute I was laughing along at something light-hearted, the next I was terrified, then I was anxious, next up was the overwhelming sadness I felt on several occasions topped off with a sprinkle of love. To me, this truly felt like I was on the journey with Scarlett and everything that happened to her felt really personal which is why I went through so many emotional states.
The writing is GORGEOUS. I was completely captivated by every sentence that was written and honestly couldn’t get enough of this book. I absolutely have to acknowledge the exceptional use of colours in this story. They are integral to the world of Caraval and help to create such vivid images in the readers mind. I am so in love with how Stephanie linked colours to emotions. Scarlett says on several occasions throughout the book that she views emotions in different shades of colours but whilst reading the book you come to realise that she sees literally every colour of the rainbow and it is beautiful! Some of my favourite examples were ‘peach embarrassment’ and ‘forget-me-not blue disappointment’.
Characters. So many excellent characters. I really liked Scarlett and I related to her on so many levels as I am also the older sister to my siblings. Her caring and protective side is something that I also harbour and could easily understand the decisions that Scarlett often made. I LOVED Tella and wish that there had been more with her in the middle of the book. From our first encounter with Tella I knew I would like her. She is headstrong, independent, sassy, spontaneous and carefree. Both of the sisters have a FIERCE love for each other and I always enjoy reading about sibling relationships so it was inevitable that I would like them both.
I knew there would be more to Julian from the beginning of the book, I just had this feeling he would be important. He definitely has the potential to become a well-loved YA book crush, I think. He is ruggedly handsome, adorable and a bit of a rogue. I loved the slow burn romance in this book and thought it was really well done. It completely and utterly made me root for them whereas an instalove would have completely turned me against it I think.
I hope that book two will give us more about Legend as he is (excuse the pun) still a bit of a legend and a mystery to us. I can’t decide if I will like him or if I just think that he is evil at the moment so we shall see how that pans out as the series continues.
Caraval is full of twists and turns. Literally every time I found myself thinking ‘Oh, _____ will happen next’ the book responded with ‘Not on my watch it won’t!’ and everything would morph into a whole new direction. I loved that I couldn’t really predict what would happen or what was going on, it made this book so mysterious and I would advise others to just throw themselves into this book wholeheartedly.
A wonderfully magical and mysterious book full of emotion, colour, excellent characters and gorgeous writing. It’s safe to say that Caraval will be one of my favourite books of 2017. Marvellous!
Have you read Caraval? What did you think?
Who was your favourite character?