Author: Stephanie Garber
Series: (Untitled) #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: Jan 31st, 2017
Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.
When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.
Scarlett has dreamed of attending the magical Caraval for years, even going as far as writing several letters to Caraval’s Master Legend. It’s when she least expects it that her letters are answered and Scarlett and her sister, Tella, receive invitations to attend this year’s performance. Scarlett is afraid of leaving her home, so Tella has to resort to trickery and the help of a random sailor boy to get Scarlett to the island, on which Caraval is being held. As soon as they arrive, however, Tella is kidnapped and made part of the show. Scarlett must solve the mystery and find her sister before the time runs out, in the meantime entangling herself in Master Legend’s twisted web of game and reality.
I found out about Stephanie Garber’s debut through book twitter – it hasn’t shut up about it since the novel was announced. A lot of people have been comparing it to The Night Circus, which immediately piqued my interest. I’m a huge fan of Erin Morgenstern’s novel, so I knew I had to get my hands on Caraval – if the people were to be trusted, that is. Having read it, I can’t say the two stories are anything alike, but there is definitely an air of similarity between them. This is said in the best possible way. I was really afraid that because of all the hype, the comparisons, and my own expectations, I will not enjoy Caraval as much, and I was right – I enjoyed it even more than expected!
I cannot stress enough how much I loved Garber’s prose. Her writing is superb, to put it mildly. It remains consistent throughout the whole novel and it captivates the reader from the very first page. I loved how she chose to reveal all backstory. The world building is light and not imposing – all necessary information is revealed bit by bit, exactly where it’s needed. There’s no unnecessary info-dumps, which I was truly grateful for. Scarlett’s world is absolutely exquisite not just because of Caraval’s magic, but the magic of Garber’s just as exquisite writing style. There was not a sentence that felt out of place. Caraval is filled with delicious details that I couldn’t help but drown in.
I love Scarlett. Plain and simple as that, I love her. She’s been through so much, but continues to be strong because of her sister, who is her entire world. I admire her determination and resilience, as well as her sharp intellect. In fact, I loved Tella for exactly the same reasons. The sisters are as different as they are alike, and I love how they fill each other’s gaps perfectly. They’re both incredibly well-rounded, multi-dimensional individuals and both of them have so much to offer, together and a part. The rest of the cast was amazing and I enjoyed their mysterious natures, but I can’t really talk much about them without giving away too much.
The twists in this book deserve their own paragraph, let’s be real. Each page had me on my toes and whenever I felt I had a firm grip on what was going on, the story turned a sharp corner and swept the rug right from underneath me. Caraval is one of the rare books that I don’t guess what’s going to happen right off the bat. Garber keeps you on the edge until the very last page, and leaves you literally begging on your knees for more.
I’m going to wrap this review up before it gets even longer than it already has. Overall, Caraval not only exceeded my expectations, but completely broke the scale. You should definitely believe the hype – or maybe you shouldn’t, because no amount of praise will do this book justice. You might be warned that Caraval is merely a performance, but magic is real and you’ll experience it with each turn of the page.