I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Published by Macmillan on January 31st 2017
Also by this author: Legendary
Format: ARC (416 pages) • Source: Publisher (ALA Midwinter)
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Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .
Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and 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.
This book was insanely cool. Completely lived up to the hype for me. I went in expecting an atmospheric, magical story, and that’s exactly what I got! I absolutely loved it. There were a few things that bugged me a little that prevent it from getting a full five stars, but I would still count this among my favorites.
The plot, in a few words: Scarlett, our main character, had been writing to the creator of Caraval, an insane traveling circus (to put it mildly), for years, in order to try to get him to come perform. Her grandma had gone years ago and told her and her sister, Donatella, all about it. The girls finally receive invitations, plus one for her fiance, and decide to sneak away from her father before her wedding. A sailor named Julian comes along with them for the final ticket because Scarlett hasn’t actually met her fiance. Her sister essentially gets kidnapped when they arrive and the mission of this year’s game is to find her.
Magical Setting and Atmosphere
The setting was easily the best part of this story. I loved learning about Caraval and trying to understand how it all worked. They warn you that it often feels real – and it partly is – but it’s mostly a game. It was amazing to follow Scarlett along as she tried to figure out what in the fresh hell was going on up in there. The atmosphere and magic of the story was just unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Truly.
I shipped it right from the start. It definitely had some hate-to-love vibes going on, which is my JAM. I was really hoping they’d end up together, even though there were definitely some twists and turns throughout the relationship. I don’t like spoiling romance so I won’t say who it is (although perhaps it’s obvious) or what happens.
The whole story involves Scarlett going through the days of Caraval to find her sister and win the game. The winner of the game gets one wish granted, but obviously that’s not what she’s looking for. It’s interesting to watch because so many people are also looking for her sister, but with different motivations. The sibling bond feels, to me, like the point of the book, more so than the romance. It had a lot of family feels in general, although lots of them were kind of the negative side. Their father was an asshole basically so fuck him. These girls were the shit and loved each other so much.
Twists and Turns Galore
Every time I kind of felt like I had something figured out, everything changed. I couldn’t believe it. I obviously won’t get into what those twists were, but just know they were major and awesome. The end of the book was incredibly satisfying in a lot of ways, but also kind of cruel cliffhanger! I absolutely NEED the next installment and can’t believe I’ll have to likely wait until 2018. Like, how?????
Not as great
As much as I loved the relationship between the sisters, Scarlett was frequently very frustrating. She was stubborn and insistent on finding her sister, which was obviously a good thing, but it was kind of irritating. No matter what anyone said, she always second-guessed herself and their relationship. She was so motivated by this that she didn’t really have the ability to think outside of the box to solve the game.
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