Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Title & Author: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Release Date: January 21, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Series Details: Duology
Page Count: 407 Pages
Description: “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 . . .
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, welcome to my review of Caraval…
God’s teeth! Where do I even begin?
From the very first line (“It took seven years to get the letter right”), I was entranced by the bewitching world of Garber’s debut novel! While at times repetitive, the expressive details illustrating the scenery, storefronts, clothing, and physical descriptions of the characters painted vivid images in my mind that allowed me to experience this magical setting through Scarlett’s eyes.
“The hazy glow of a lantern caught the metallic edges of the paper, making them blaze a shimmery gold, the color of magic and wishes and promises of things to come.”
With detailed imagery and unique twists sprinkled throughout, I’m not shocked the movie rights have already been sold. I imagine a cinematic version of Caraval will feel “spectacularly bigger, the way a word feels bigger with an exclamation point tacked onto it.”
Caraval truly has everything you’re looking for in an introductory novel: a captivating setting, an intriguing plot, compelling characters, a will-they-won’t-they romance, and enough of a teaser ending to keep you wanting more. While the ultimate reveals aren’t mind blowing, they do evoke the emotions of watching a magic trick unfold: you know the person in the box is going to disappear/be cut in half/reappear as a tiger/etc, but you can’t stop staring and trying to figure out how it’s being done – the thrill at the end exists whether you solved it beforehand or not.
If you can look past the lies, manipulation, and unscrupulous actions of a few key players, you’ll be swept away and invested in the game long after sunup.