fantasy · review · young adult

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

“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 to magic in the world.”

caraval-the-mesmerising-sunday-times-bestseller

Blurb: “Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father. When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

I’ve heard a lot about Caraval since its release but, while the kind of genre I would eat up in a heartbeat, seeing the many mixed reviews put me off delving in. It was only after listening to Stephanie Garber’s interview on the 88 Cups Of Tea podcast that I decided to finally give the book a go.

I will be truthful, as that is a fundamental part of being a reviewer. I found it incredibly difficult to get into the first half of this book. I didn’t connect to any of the characters so it was hard for me to really root for them. Even when the main crux – Tella’s kidnapping for the game – becomes apparent, I didn’t really miss Tella at all. I contemplated putting down the book several times but kept pushing forward because I know so many people who deeply love this book and wanted to understand why. The second half is infinitely better as the pieces of the puzzle start to slot together.

I really loved the letters at the start of book which convey to the reader just how many years Scarlett has spent dreaming about going to Caraval. Her invitation comes at a pivotal moment; when she is just about to get married to her anonymous suitor. When she finally gets there, it reminds me a lot of Coraline in the sense that everything is not as it seems. What appears magical on the surface is rooted in darkness and it’s impossible to take anything at face value. I found myself cursing at points when Scarlett was tricked by certain characters.

Also, a very small thing but I am a sucker for people having nicknames and I loved every time Julian, the sailor boy who became Scarlett’s teammate, calls Scarlett “Crimson.”

Fundamentally, it’s a detective story, rooted in familial love. Scarlett is looking for her sister and it was interesting to see so many dead ends play out over the course of the story, forcing Scarlett to think harder and really prove how much Tella means to her.

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