Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .
Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.
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.
Welcome to Caraval, a book of mystery, wonder, and a whole host of questions.
Scarlett Dragna is the MC and she has been obsessed with the idea of Caraval since her grandma told the story to her and her sister. The book opens with letters Scarlett has written to Legend, the enigmatic and magical leader of the game, and his reply, along with three invitations to play in that year’s game.
The lead-up to Caraval was exciting. There was so much left open about what kind of story and game the characters were about to get themselves into, I flew through those first chapters(and, well, kind of the entire book).
Scarlett was a great MC to take the journey with. She starts off hopelessly naïve, stuck with an abusive father, and her only way out is to marry some count she’s never met. Enter Caraval, Master Legend, and the smokin’ hot Julian, to push Scarlett from being a scared little flower, into a fierce MC who will stop at nothing to find her sister. The character development was fantastic, and I love that the changes in Scarlett were so subtle you didn’t notice them as they happened. Scarlett also had a great little identifier that I haven’t seen in any MC before. She sees her emotions as colours, which added great depth to scenes that may otherwise have been nondescript.
There are a fantastic host of secondary characters, too. Tella (Scarlett’s sister) seemingly flighty and airheaded, comes into her own by the end. Julian was fantastic as a LI, Aiko was curious—I would have liked to see more of her—and each of the ‘performers’ had their own little quirks and personalities.
There were a few parts in the book that felt a little off. The clues didn’t seem very structured, and I would have liked to see more of a ‘game’ aspect. There were definitely unusual aspects to Caraval, but I also would have liked to see them pushed more. Some of the conflict between Scarlett and Julian seemed to end too quickly, and all the bits and pieces he revealed to her felt off. His big reveal just left me scratching my head over the other elaborate and confusing lies he’d told.
Then, the ending. Like, I loved it for the most part. It was intense and great to read, but there are aspects (you’ll know what I mean if you read it) that were way too easy.
After the big reveal from Tella, I’m still kind of confused what the whole point of her getting them to Caraval was.
All that aside, I seriously dig this book. It was an amazing story overall, held back from being a perfect five stars by a few nuisances.
I would definitely recommend this book if you love a whimsical story set in a fantasy world, that sweeps you off on an adventure.
(and a half)