Review: Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caraval was such a refreshingly fun read! I loved the story, the world, the characters and I even loved hating some of the characters. It looks like Caraval is going to be a two-book series and I’m going to have to wait until 2018 to read the second book. I can’t wait that long!

This is the summary taken directly from Goodreads, which you can also read here.

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.

I love it when fantasy novels have a map at the beginning! This world looks like a magical Venice since you have to travel by boat from one place to the next. In this case, you’re traveling from one mini island to another. Caraval does have bridges to connect most of the islands, but I imagine it would take too long to go from one end to the other.

This was more than just a young adult fantasy novel. It’s also part mystery and part action/adventure with a little romance and a decent amount of suspense. As I was reading, I wasn’t sure which characters in Caraval were participants and which were performers, so I was constantly trying to guess who was telling the truth and who wasn’t. Even as a reader, I got caught up in the game just as Scarlett did.

So, Scarlett is a year older than Donatella, AKA “Tella”, and they’re very different people. Scarlett is fearful and naïve throughout most of the novel, but her character does grow towards the end to a much stronger person. It felt like she was never going to get to that point. She’s overly protective of Tella, trying to keep them both safe from their abusive father. Whenever one sister does something wrong, their father, Governor Dragna, makes the other sister pay by physically abusing the other sister. He made me so angry that I kept wishing him dead throughout the novel. At one point, I actually felt sorry for him! Tella is more carefree and thinks that there’s more to life than just trying to stay safe. She knows that being safe doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy.

Scarlett is engaged to the Count and it’s not until late in the novel that his identity is revealed. She just knows of him as “The Count”. If I were Scarlett, I don’t know how I would handle an abusive father who arranges my marriage and doesn’t even tell me who I’m marrying.

Julian is the mysterious sailor who whisks the girls away to Caraval. He sounds like a hot, bad boy, you know, the type who knows that they’re not always a good person, but yet girls always seem to fall for them. I loved learning his secrets and how it relates to Caraval!

Here are some random things that I liked about this novel. I liked the clues of the game and trying to play along with Scarlett as she tried to find her sister. Dante, Valentina, Jovan, and Aiko had entertaining roles in the story. Valentina, not so much, but definitely the other three. The backstory of Scarlett and Tella’s grandmother, Annalise, added a nice layer of history. I’d love for my clothes to magically change as I’m wearing them as they often did for Scarlett during the game. It was interesting what Scarlett had to do for things during the game when she didn’t have money to pay. Sometimes answering a question in exchange for something turned out to be too costly, especially if she didn’t give an honest answer!

I loved the ending, because it has some resolve, but still had something left open for the sequel. It’s been so long since I’ve enjoyed a novel as much as I enjoyed this one. In case you’re wondering, I rarely give out five stars. I loved this, but I wouldn’t say it wowed me. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely from beginning to end. I highly recommend this book!

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