Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Name:  Caraval
Stephanie Garber
Number of Pages:
  402 (Hardback)
31st January 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult


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 . . .
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. – Goodreads

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

I was so looking forward to Caraval. I’d seen the book around online a LOT, and I couldn’t wait to get reading.
And I liked it.

Our lead character is Scarlett.  She has dreamed of Caraval for years, having been raised on her grandmother’s stories of her own Caraval experiences.
Caraval is magic, adventure and wonder, an escape from everyday life, and you can see why Scarlett would be so eager for escape. He father is cruel, made worse since her mother’s inexplicable disappearance. Scarlett is promised to a man she has never met, but is willing to look on this as a good way to escape the cruelties of home.
She has written to the master of Caraval, Legend, for years, imploring him to bring his show to the isle of Trisda, their home.
And then the invitation arrives, and it is Tella who is the driving force behind their departure.
Once at Caraval, the younger sister disappears, and it soon becomes apparent that the mystery of this year’s game revolves around finding Tella, last seen with Legend.
From then on it’s a race against time for Scarlett and Julian, a sailor who helped them get to the isle, to find Tella and get back home in time for Scarlett’s wedding.

There is certainly plenty of mystery and intrigue here. So much is unknown, and it’s clearly stated that people don’t necessarily come to Caraval for the truth, either about themselves or others. They want the adventure, the fantasy, the escape. Scarlett herself is encouraged in small deceptions, all in the spirit of playing the game.
It’s a tale that will keep you guessing right up to the conclusion, because it’s safe to say that very little is what it first appears.

There’s an interesting supporting cast in the form of Julian, who helps the sisters get to Caraval and ends up staying with Scarlett, and Dante, a mysterious man who has apparently played the game before. I also liked Aiko and Jovan, although their roles are fairly small. Then there’s Legend, the man at the centre of it all.

Legend really is the stuff of legend, pardon the expression. No one knows him, he is apparently ageless, and can alter his appearance at will. He’s the master of all at Caraval, and knows everything that’s happening. An enigmatic figure indeed, but for the most part it’s off the page and he’s the sort of character I would have loved to witness within the action much earlier on. I kept hoping for his appearance. Scarlett believes the game surrounds her personally as it’s her sister who is taken, and that Legend has made it personal. I would have loved to see him there with her in some way early on in the story, as some sort of challenge to her. Perhaps this is something that will happen in the future?

Caraval does reach a conclusion, but it also leaves certain questions unanswered, so we’ll have to wait until the next book to find out what happens next.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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