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.
I had high expectations and low expectations stepping into Caraval. Everyone who’s read it has been gushing over what a masterpiece it is. But then it was also endlessly compared to The Night Circus. Confession: I didn’t like The Night Circus, so I was concerned that I just wouldn’t be the target reader for Caraval. Within the first few pages, it was clear that I was going to fawn over it.
“Remember, it’s only a game…”
Is it just a game? Is any of it real? Like the players, it certainly didn’t feel like a game judging by the amount of times my heart rate increased. I loved discovering new clues alongside Scarlett, stumbling into roadblocks, and overcoming seemingly life threatening obstacles. I haven’t been swept away in such a carousel of a story in a long time and am delighted I got to experience such an adventure in Caraval.
Stephanie Garber is a beautiful writer. Her sentences strung together so fluidly, painting a fitting picture for the Caraval world she created. Scarlett, Tella, and Julian jumped off the pages straight away. She wrote such a strong opener with well developed, three-dimensional characters; I was sucked in immediately and had no choice but to stay up and read until the small hours of the morning.
The twists were clever and not too over the top, bringing the final chapter to a satisfying conclusion. I believe there is a sequel planned, but I felt a good deal of closure with the ending as it is (but I am definitely going to be first in line to step back into this world!)
Caraval may end up being one of the biggest YA books of 2017. And rightfully so!
Thanks so much to Hodder & Stoughton for giving me a copy to review through NetGalley!