Caraval by Stephanie Garber is the tale of two sisters escape into a legendary game full of adventure, intrigue and magic. Scarlett and Tella have never been off the small island they call home. They live in fear of their abusive father and long for an escape from his brutality and their small life.
For years, Scarlett has written to the infamous Legend in hopes of seeing his magical Caraval. Nearing the eve of an arranged marriage, Scarlett finally receives a reply and the sisters are invited to a special, invitation only, showing of the Caraval. Scarlett is hesitant but when Tella flees to Caraval, she has no choice but to follow and it is there that the game begins.
As part of the game, Tella has been kidnapped and Scarlett is pulled into a world that is more than it seems. Lines are blurred and danger lurks around every corner. Scarlett must rely upon a handsome stranger, Julian, to help her save her sister and win the game. But Julian’s secrets may be even worse then those of the Caraval and it’s mysterious game-master.
Will Scarlett be swept away or will she fight for a life that is hers?
I was so excited for this one. I loved Night Circus and many people were comparing Caraval to it. There is just something so mysterious about a circus/carnival, it can be the perfect avenue for a fantasy novel.
The world building here was interesting. I’m not sure if Garber was purposely vague in her description of Legend’s island in order to increase the mystery, but I wished I could see more of it. You get enough to spur your imagination but not quite enough to be fully sucked in by its wonder. Still, Caraval is a world I wanted to explore and a mystery I wanted to uncover.
Scarlett can see and taste her emotions. This was actually pretty neat and made for some interesting metaphors. In fact this whole book was filled with metaphorical language, almost too much. But it did help lend a little magic to the narrative. The language won’t work for everyone, but I didn’t mind it.
One thing this book does excel at is keeping you guessing. You’re never really sure what is real and what is an act; who you can trust and who you should run from. One minute I was positive Julian was in on it and the next I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t see anything coming and that’s not a bad thing.
As much as I enjoyed many of the elements of this book, the last 40-50 pages killed it for me. The epilogue was awesome but the ending felt rushed and Scarlett fell flat. Scarlett who grew so much throughout the book, loses her jenesequa, that something she had been gaining throughout her trials. Throughout the book, Scarlett gains courage and insight into her own heart; she becomes an independent person who can think for herself. I know I almost never include spoilers but I can’t review this one without so…
Scarlett is even strong after Julian and Tella die. She separates herself from her father and tries to make her own magic. Then Tella shows up, alive, and Scarlett finds out that her sister and Legend planned everything. No one is dead, everything Scarlett has gone through was a lie, orchestrated not only by Legend but by her own sister and she just rolls over! She just accepts it and once again allows someone else to lead her life. This frustrated the hell out of me and bumped this down a whole star. I don’t know why this hasn’t bothered anyone else.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the world of Caraval and I wish I could have explored it more. This one gets three stars from me.
That’s all for now!