Author: Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval, #1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: January 26th 2017
Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
Caraval feels very much like the ‘it’ book of 2017. By now everyone has heard of it and is either eagerly anticipating its release or raving over it so going into this book my expectations were sky high, and I was still completely blown away by the story. Caraval has been compared to The Night Circus, another favourite of mine, and while both books stand on their own merits Caraval has the same sense of magic, wonder and enchantment that I loved so much about The Night Circus.
Scarlett has written to Legend, the mysterious proprietor of Caraval, for years, begging him to come to Trisda and perform for them there. She never receives a response until one year, in reply to one of her letters, Legend sends Scarlett three tickets for her, her sister and her fiancé. Knowing her father will never let them leave the island Scarlett soon finds her initial enthusiasm waning, but Tella has other ideas and before long Scarlett finds herself on Legend’s island preparing to enter the world of Caraval.
However it isn’t long before things go wrong for Scarlett. Determined to find her sister and get them both home, before her wedding and before their father realises where they have run off to, Scarlett soon discovers Tella has become this year’s game. Whoever finds her, and Legend, receives a prize of one wish.
As player in the game Scarlett finds herself travelling all over Caraval, searching for her sister, selling secrets and fears for hints and clues as to her whereabouts. But the more time Scarlett spends in Caraval, with Julian helping her along the way, the more she starts to wonder whether this really is a game or something much more sinister with very real consequences.
Caraval is all about the adventure. From the second Scarlett steps foot on Legend’s island and begins the game the book takes an addictive turn. I was never sure what would happen next but it all fit into the wonder of Caraval. Anything is possible; there are no limits to what could happen and what people will do, and the journey Scarlett goes on to find her sister is a dangerous one to say the least.
Scarlett vowed when her mother left that she would protect her sister, never leave Tella without a word or something to remember her by. As such she is fiercely protective of her sister to the point where her own dreams and imagination and hope has been pushed away to make room for practicality and safety above all else. Scarlett tries to stop Tella’s wild schemes before she goes too far and ends up getting hurt, but when it comes to Caraval she finds herself helpless in the wake of Tella’s determination.
Unlike Scarlett Tella is the sister who still dreams. She sees something more for both of them than a life living in fear of their father’s temper, more than Scarlett marrying a man she has never met and doesn’t love to keep them both safe. Tella is wild and unpredictable but above all she loves her sister and the same urge Scarlett feels to protect Tella Tella feels for Scarlett, she simply shows it in a different way. Where Scarlett wants Tella to keep her head down Tella wants Scarlett to live and dream again.
The relationship between the two sisters was a wonderful addition to this story, and is pretty much what drove Scarlett’s throughout the game. Although Tella isn’t in the story much as Legend’s prisoner you can still clearly see the bond between the two of them. Everything Scarlett does during the game, and everything she’s done before the game, has been to keep Tella safe. The two love each other, and are all the other has given their mother’s disappearance and their father’s monstrous temper.
However it wasn’t just the sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella that was well developed in this book. The different performers of Caraval all played their part; you could never tell who was on Scarlett’s side and who was trying to hinder her process. Julian was an enigmatic character. On one hand he seemed to want to help Scarlett find her sister, and the two work together as they navigate the riddles of Caraval and follow where the clues lead them, but on the other hand there is a lot he is hiding. More often than not it seems Julian’s motivations are very different to what he says they are.
In Caraval Scarlett cannot be sure of anyone, not Julian, not Legend, not any of the players or performers. The only person she can rely on is her sister, who is the only person not by her side.
For Scarlett Caraval is about her sister, but for all the other players it’s about the journey. Caraval offers both the players and the watchers a few days to experience real magic and all the wonder, enchantment and adventure that goes alongside it. There was so much to see in Caraval, but at the same time there is a much more sinister side to the performance. Alongside the castles and wonders on the streets there are dark tunnels underground and places where information can cost you days off your life. There are plenty of different routes the players can go to find clues and find the prize at the end; you can never be sure what will happen in Caraval, what the next chapter or the next page will bring for Scarlett, Julian and Tella, but it’s an adventure nonetheless.
Caraval is a highly anticipated and very hyped book at the moment; and all I can say having finally read it myself is that this is one book that more than lives up to the hype, that is worth all the anticipation, and that will likely be a lot of people’s favourite read of 2017. Granted I’ve only read this one book this year so far but it’s going to take a lot to top Caraval.
What did you think of Caraval? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.
All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.