(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by FlatIron Books on January 31, 2017
Genres: Family, General, Paranormal, Performing Arts, Romance, Siblings, Young Adult Fiction
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.
So let me just preface this by saying that while I enjoyed this book, I’m finding that I didn’t love it as much as some of my fellow readers. Even now, only a few weeks later, I’m struggling to decide on a rating for this.
Caraval tells the story of two sisters who have lived under the ruthless thumb of their father for years, and for years, Scarlett, the older and more responsible of the two sisters has been fascinated with Caraval … part performance and part game but completely filled with magic and intrigue.
When an envelope arrives just days before Scarlett’s wedding with tickets, and Tella disappears as part of the game, she has no choice but to take part in the festivities, which turn out to be more dangerous than she could have ever expected.
I couldn’t help but get a “wonderland” feel while reading this book… the fantastical elements, the magical elements, the idea the you can’t trust a single person along the way, it was all very intriguing and certainly kept me turning pages. That said, at times I was almost overwhelmed with all the crazy things going on and I think it frustrated me a bit that there was so much of it.
I also found that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters as much as I like to. I was interested in them, but I never felt invested in them either together or apart. The sister relationship is supposed to be a driving force to the story, and it all felt very surface to me and as a reader I never really witnessed the strong bond between the two, instead we’re just supposed to accept what we’re told because they are apart for the majority of the book… Julian was interesting and charismatic, but their relationship just barely had me invested in them together. I think overall I just wanted more character building along the way.
I will say that I really enjoyed the beautiful writing style and the way Garber describes everything… you can basically get lost in just imagining this amazing, beautiful and crazy world she has created. Her words brought the magic of Caraval to life in such a unique and vivid way.
The plot itself is filled with twists and turns and so much imagination that you won’t be able to put this down once you start reading. Once you think you know what is going to happen, you will be completely thrown off balance with something you never saw coming, and the ending wonderfully wrapped up this first installment.
If you’re a fan of the fantastical and magical and a vibrant story with shocking twists and turns I think you’re going to absolutely love this. I’ll definitely be checking out book 2, but will be hoping for some more character/relationship development as I continue the series.
Thank you to the publisher for an early copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.