Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval Stephanie Garber
Caraval Stephanie Garber cover

Title: Caraval 
Author: Stephanie Garber 
Series: Caraval #1 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: January 31, 2017 
Rating: ★★★★½ 

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.
Before you enter the world of Caraval,
you must remember that it’s all a game.

I am so pleasantly surprised. The hype around this book has been insane the last couple of months and I may have whispered: ‘Please don’t disappoint me’, before opening the cover. But I should not have feared. Caraval is remarkable, new and captivating. It sucks you right in and keeps you on edge until the very end.

The most impressive part is the uniqueness of the story. I loved how new and exciting it was. It takes place in a world of wonder where seemingly everything is possible. There are barely any rules and the magic is elusive. It’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Caraval is a game. It’s a competition to some and an escape to others, but either way it is impossible not to get swept away.

The story evolves around Scarlett Dragna, a young girl who is about to get married to an unknown count in a couple of days when suddenly her sister Tella disappears into Caraval. She has no choice but to follow and she soon finds out there might be more at stake then she initially thought. Legend, the mastermind behind it all has been expecting her. No one has ever laid eyes upon him, no one even knows what he looks like, but he leaves clues. Little helpful notes and objects to send his players on their way. This year’s quest? Find Donatella Dragna before it’s too late.

My interest immediately sparked up. The game is intriguing. Nothing is ever as it seems and none of the characters can be trusted. They are never what they appear to be. That’s what we’re told. So I tried to see through the mist. I tried to figure out people’s true intentions and the meaning behind everything. If there was one thing I knew for certain, it was that we were going to meet Legend without realizing it. So I kept my eyes wide open. I was not going to let myself be deceived.

No one is truly honest. Even if we don't lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.

It’s funny how us readers always think we’re so clever. How often have you internally screamed at characters because they don’t see what’s right in front of them? I was so intend on not getting fooled that I started looking for clues everywhere. And after a couple of chapters I had it all figured out.

Turns out the joke was on me. The book keeps throwing surprises at you. It plays with its readers so well. Every time you think you called something, you’re wrong. It’s both delightful and frustrating at the same time. Because as you’re reading, it feels like you’re playing and you easily forget the one warning: ‘Be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.’

The book is fast-paced and beautifully written. It’s treacherous in the best possible way. It keeps messing with your mind. The emotions are strong and true. The story is about friendship and love and standing up for oneself. I love how devoted Scarlett and Tella are, how they always look out for one another. Friendship and love between siblings is such a beautiful thing to witness.

There is just one tiny problem. I’m not sure if I really like Scarlett. I rooted for her and I liked her perspective, but I have some issues with her character. The main one that despite her age, she feels very young. She was often naive and she held on to principles that seemed ridiculous to me. But she learned and I liked her a great deal better near the end. I also thought the father was a bit too much. Sometimes small cruelties are more effective. But neither issue was ‘bad’ enough to ruin the experience and I’m all ready for the sequel!

Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.

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  1. I am so excited to read this now. I'm going to buddy read it with a friend when we get through some review copies we need to read first but I can't wait! :D

    1. Yay, I'm so excited for you to start reading it! Let me know what you think of it.


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