Author: Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: January 31st, 2017 (Flatiron Books)
Synopsis: Remember, it’s only a game…
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
“What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you,
but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s
real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe.
So while we want you to get swept away, 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.”
Sisters Scarlett and Donatella “Tella” Dragna live on the tiny Isle of Trisda with their cruel father, waiting for the day they will be able to leave. Their chance arrives when Scarlett receives tickets to Caraval, a week-long performance that promises a magical experience for the audience, something they have always dreamed of seeing in person. The hitch? It’s days before Scarlett’s wedding, and their one sure way off Trisda, though Tella is highly sceptical about it. Scarlett is hesitant to gamble her wedding to attend Caraval, but Tella is determined to seize this chance of escape and adventure, and with the help of a mysterious sailor, spirits her off Trisda to Caraval Master Legend’s private isle where this year’s game is to be held. Scarlett expected magic and mystery at Caraval – but she didn’t expect her little sister to be kidnapped by Legend and for the game to involve finding Tella. In a place where it is hard to tell what is real, Scarlett races to find her sister before the game ends, all the while trying to remember that Caraval is, after all, only a game.
Scarlett initially came off as a potentially smart character, but then turns out to be overly cautious, indecisive, and was so easily led by other characters! It started to get rather frustrating after a point. As for Tella, it was very hard to get a measure of her, considering that she was actually present on page for very little of the book. Possibly due to the short timespan of the book, I felt there was very little character development for the sisters in general. Their sibling dynamic however, was lovely, especially the way they were so protective of each other. Julian is a very interesting character, so full of secrets, and I think, of the primary characters thus far, my favourite.
But characters aside, it was the concept of the story itself that I enjoyed most. It was especially fun figuring out what was real and what was part of the game, and the magic of Caraval is as engrossing for a reader as it appears to be for the players. When the game ended, I was surprised to see just how many things I assumed were not part of the game actually were and vice versa! While that ending was a little disappointing from Scarlett’s storyline, I’m much more excited to see Tella’s adventure finally begin.
I was really surprised to find that this was a debut novel, because Caraval is so well written and immersive for a first story. I’m really glad I decided to re-read this in preparation for Finale as it is even better this time around. An enchanting read, Caraval is a must for fantasy fans! Highly recommended!
Watch out for my review of the sequel, Legendary, coming soon!
Other reviews in this series: