Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
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.
Caraval has to be one of the most talked about books of 2017, and certainly one of the most hyped. I have been hearing about this book since early 2016, I was even lucky enough to read an ARC of it back in July last year, but it took me forever to get to it. In that time, I have seen an endless amount of people gushing over this book and how incredible it is. I have to say that all these glowing reviews did make my expectations skyrocket. I feel it made it nigh on impossible for Caraval to live up to those expectations. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy this book, I really did. In fact, I found this to be one of the most enchanting and magical books I have read in a long time, and it was almost impossible to put down.
Caraval follows Scarlett, the daughter of General Dragna, a controlling and abusive man. Scarlett loves her sister, Donatella, and would do anything to protect her. Even if that means accepting an arranged marriage to a man she has never met, just to get Tella and herself away from their father. Scarlett is only a week away from her wedding day when a letter from the famed Legend, master of Caraval, arrives at her door. Inside is an invitation to Caraval, a magical event where you can play to win or just go to watch. Scarlett has always wanted to go, she has spent years writing to Legend himself, always knowing she could never go, her father wouldn't allow it. Scarlett doesn't want to risk the wrath of her father or losing her fiance, she doesn't plan to go. Her decision is made for her, and her determination to win Caraval is made stronger when Tella is taken as a part of the game. Scarlett has no choice but to play, and play to win. But nothing is as it seems at Caraval, Scarlet can't trust anything she sees, but she is willing to risk everything to get Donatella back.
I found Caraval to be a wholly riveting read, a book I was unable to put down. There was something lyrical about Garber's writing, and it had me completely swept up in the story. There is not one dull moment when reading this book, it feels like there is always something happening. I will admit to being a total sucker for the adorably shippable romance in this book. Garber definitely knows how to build up the sexual tension between two characters. I was so happy with how that relationship progressed over the course of the book, I am most definitely a fan. I finished the book and understood why there was so much hyper surrounding it, it is an enthralling read that brings something new to the genre. I for one can't wait for the sequel and whatever Stephanie Garber does after it.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Caraval, I didn't fall as completely in love with this story the way most people have. There was just one or two things that bothered me when reading and stopped this being a 5 star read for me. The first was that, whilst I was all for the romance here, it was definitely a case of instalove given that the whole of the book takes place over 4 or 5 days. It is even more glaringly obvious when our lead actually bemoans someone else for thinking they are in love after four days, whilst she completely ignores the fact that that is apparently what she herself has done. My other issue was that this did not have a carnival or circus vibe AT ALL, instead taking place in what feels like a Venis-like city of canals and walkways. The circus theme was pushed very hard when the book was being publicised and I was looking forward to that aspect of it, but it was sadly not evident at all when I was reading it.
The only other aspect I didn't completely love was the ending to the book. It felt just a little too rushed to me, with almost too much going on. I am aware that there is a second book coming, so I hope that gives me more of the characters and their story, and more answers. I just didn't feel I got enough closure by the end of the book, so I most definitely need more.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder in exchange for an honest review.