Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Published January 31st, 2017
Remember, it’s only a game…
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
I rated Caraval 4/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.
I picked up my copy of Caraval at my favorite local bookstore (click here to check out my local bookstore, Main Street Books) far too long ago when I was home from university and cannot fathom why I waited so long to read it. In spite of the rave reviews this book was receiving, I persisted in my blissful ignorance of this book’s sheer madness. And when I say madness, I mean the good kind of madness that has you laying on the floor after reading, in tears because you have to wait so long to read the next installment in the series.
Caraval is told in a series of colors: protagonist Scarlett describes a world so rich with a hue and saturation that I could taste it. There’s an apparent aesthetic to everything and a richness to the visuals that are enticing and incredible and merely immersive. As a reader, you see what Scarlett sees, whether it’s the browns of a cellar floor or the cerulean of the ocean or the vibrant purple velvet of an evening gown. The vocabulary is lively and vivid, almost alive with intensity.
The rich description extends directly into the world that Garber creates. When reading, I got this lovely Mediterranean vibe, something akin to Italy or Portugal with perhaps a spot of Brazilian carnival thrown in, but none of these influences were directly stated. The world building and setting of the world are very subtle and understated, immersing the reader in the world rather than providing a checklist of cultural influences.
The beginning few sections were pure magic. From the very first page, I was entranced with the world and felt sucked into Scarlett and Tella’s story. I am a horribly picky reader and struggled to identify a flaw. I’ve been known to make corrections and annotations in my books and I didn’t have a single correction to make… until the climax. This is my only criticism of Caraval, and I love the book so much that I contemplated whether or not to even put this point in my review.
While the build-up was so exciting and enticing, I found that what came after the climax was somewhat lackluster. The integral point was wrought with heartbreak and pain for our protagonist, as all good climaxes should be, but the events directly after felt like a neat and tidy clean-up on Aisle Five. After all of these destructive things happened to Scarlett, it felt like Garber sopped up the mess, stitched everyone back together, and gave a pat on the head before sending all the characters on their merry way. I like a little pain and angst from a climax, and all the juicy heartbreak that I loved about the climax was immediately reversed.
Other than that, I was entranced by Caraval. The language was magical, the story was unique and unexpected, and I had a lovely time reading it from cover to cover. If you’re looking for a well-crafted story full of vibrant description and relatable characters, Caraval is the book for you.
Have you read Caraval?
Related Post // My Spoiler-Free Review of The Belles
This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my affiliate policy.