Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval book cover

Title: Caraval 

Author: Stephanie Garber


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.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

Review:  I want to start this review off by saying, “Quick! Read Caraval so that you can get to Legendary!” But that wouldn’t be right, so I’ll begin!

To be honest, when I first read the synopsis and reviews for this book, I was convinced it was not for me. BUT how wrong I was! What I say next proves why word of mouth (by trusted bookish friends) is so important for the wide spreading of books. My dear friend, Ya Author and fellow PitchWars Alum, Amaris Glass highly recommended Caraval. She convinced me I would not be disappointed, and well, I was not in any possible way. In fact, Caraval was one of the best reads of the year (well, until I read Legendary, it’s sequel –that book review is next!)

Caraval did not fail to keep me guessing at every page, and not in the creepy way I thought it would originally but in a fantastic and magical way. Garber has proved that she has mastered her craft at tension and mystery and originality. She constantly surprised me with fresh turns in characters and situations.

Also, her beautiful imagery and intricate world building created something you can’t help but get lost in and want to stay. Her moods were shown in colors and tastes were described in art. It was amazing.

It was a bit dark at times, but the redemption of it all is worth it. It will surprise you until the end and will only get better. The end is beautiful…

Characters/Voice: Each character’s voice in this book is uniqie and identifiable. For me, this is a huge thing in YA writing–not everyone can do it. It takes time to perfect, but Garber did it so well.

Scarlett is the main protagonist in this story and I adored her. She is beautiful, yet reserved. We get to know her through her deep thought process and logical steps and all the ways she has protected herself and her sister in the past. She is witty, caring, brave and WOW there is a great ARC in her character.

Tella, her sister which you get to know more in Legendary, is every bit of who she should be for book one and very opposite to Scarlett–darker, riskier, less cautious, and yet you can’t quite understand her until book two (and you LOVE HER!!!!). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Julian, the dreamy love interest, was every bit mysterious and charming and maddening and you just can’t wait to figure him out.

Legend is a central character who mysteriously remains unknown in book one. But he is developed so well that even though you don’t know who he is, he is always there! (AH, book two!!!)

Apart from Legend being completely set up, so is Scarlett’s past, her family history, her father & mother, her grandmother, and the Caraval players.

Every character (big and small) is unique and with its own voice–again, I am so glad I picked this book up!

Pacing: You really can’t put this book down. Be prepared!

Setting: The fantasy world of Caraval is so complex revolving around an island where the games take place. Its rich with colors and imagination and beautiful dresses and dark dungeons. The world where the girls grew up also becomes very real. Garber did an awesome job of painting rich pictures, giving the land and people history and texture and layers, and making it very interesting.

Themes: Freedom from abusers and control, finding love, trust, bravery, coming of age, believing in yourself, making your own choices, belief and love.

Last note: I loved Caraval, and I didn’t think it possible for me to love Legendary as much, but I was wrong. Next book review on Legendary will be out next week!

nova-leaning shot

Signing off, Nova

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