My Rating : ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Series: Caraval (Book 1)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
” 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…more ”
“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.”
Guys, look! A review! *Happy dance*
I began reading Caraval with some pretty high expectations. Before delving into the book myself, I had read many positive reviews from bloggers who managed to get their hands on an ARC copy of the book. Quite a few bloggers likened the aura of Caraval to The Night Circus, which is, in my opinion, a pretty huge compliment. So, the big Q: Were my expectations met?
You bet your cookies they were.
This book was a fantastic combination of romance, fantasy, adventure, and mystery. The writing is fairly strong yet simple, and it allows you to fully focus on the story and its characters without being distracted by overly-embellished diction. There were some moments of repetitiveness in detail and description, but these moments didn’t take too much away from the story. Also, the inclusion of letters within the text helped give the story an extra touch of characterization, and though I rarely notice this, the design of some of the pages are lovely and add to the magic of Caraval.
Stephanie Garber did a wonderful job in bringing her world of Caraval to life with an abundance of sensory details that envelop you and carry you deeper into the mysterious goings-on within Caravel. The author skillfully creates a world where magic is real and powerful, and it acts as an ambiguous force that is acknowledged, though not wielded by anyone and everyone. The magic of Caraval has its own set of rules by which it functions, and the characters taking part in the game soon learn that nothing is as it seems in this elaborate performance orchestrated by ringmaster, Legend.
“Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.”
Speaking of Legend, the characters are another strong aspect of this book. Scarlett and Tella (short for Donatella) share a strong sisterly bond in which they are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another. The two girls are similar to Marianne and Eleanor from Sense and Sensibility. Scarlett behaves as the sensible one while Tella is governed by feeling. Each girl has a particular strength of character, and their differing views of the world lead them into an adventure that shapes who they are and who they will become.
At first, I was not much a fan of Tella, for she seems selfish and self-centered (and also a kleptomaniac?). But my opinion changed (for the most part, anyways) towards the end, as I realized she simply wishes for both her and her sister to be free of their ridiculously cruel and abusive father and to live their lives the way they desire. As for Scarlett, I found her character to be the most relatable, and even though she is the “sensible” one, her thought processes and actions within the game were understandable given the circumstances. She made many mistakes, but they were somewhat forgivable as she made them all with good intent, the intent to save her sister.
Besides familial love, I loved the relationship between Scarlett and Julian (*SWOON*). Julian is an interesting character whose charm stems from his mysteriousness and severe lack of hero qualities. He is an enigma who holds an abundance of secrets that are slowly unearthed throughout the story. And though his words and actions are often questionable, it is hard not to love him for what/who he is. Both he and Scarlett are very independent and of their own mind, but their situation requires them to work together to achieve their differing goals. The connection between the two is not immediate and I fell in love with the slow-burn romance that formed between the two over the course of four or five days.
“She imagined loving him would feel like falling in love with darkness, frightening and consuming yet utterly beautiful when the stars came out.”
I was quite surprised by the level of sinisterness the author incorporated to describe Legend and his grand performance of Caraval, which has an undercurrent of deceit and cruelty that is overshadowed by vivid color and dazzling magic tricks. As the competition goes on, Legend morphs into a faceless villain whose schemes come to a suspenseful head during a final act in which the game comes to an end and the truth is revealed. The last part of the book is fast-paced, thrilling, and full of tension that had me biting my nails and quickly turning one page after another, desperate to know how it all ends.
All in all, I loved this book. I thought the author did an excellent job in portraying a sisterly bond that is not entirely perfect, but is strong, as it is built on love. And the characters were well-developed, though they have much more room to grow and to mature, especially Tella. The story is captivating from beginning to end and the magic of Caraval will give readers a sense of wonder that carries them above the clouds until they are set back down on the ground in the stunning conclusion of this book. I can’t recommend this story enough. I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series!