Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published: 31st January 2017 (UK)
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Paperback Proof copy
Acquired: Leftover proof from work
Book Blurb:: Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year, five-day 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 then Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.
Scarlett has been told over and over that everything that happens in Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever….
Note: I have been lucky to have read and reviewed this proof copy before the official release date. This may mean that the blurb and the book contents may have changed slightly from the final publication. I did not get this book from the publisher and all opinions here are my own.
Okay, so this book is so different to what I expected. I haven’t been excited for this book at all before its release as the sibling relationship looked as if it was going to be really boring and not up my street at all. But there was an extra proof copy lying around in the office at work, and I had seen a lot of hype surrounding this book on social media so I decided to give it a go. And boy, I am glad I did!!
A quick summary of the book: Scarlett Dragna dreams of visiting Caraval- a magical 5-day adventure/performance with her sister Tella, but they haven’t returned to the isle of Trisda for years and the sisters’ strict and abusive father forbids them to leave the town.
Scarlett writes a letter to the owner of Caraval -Legend- every year, until one year she gets an invitation. When Tella goes missing at the start of Caraval, Scarlett finds out that the goal of this year’s Caraval is to find her, or she will disappear forever. Caraval is a magical place, and the fantastical and unpredictable game to find her is not always what it seems.
So I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I thought it was going to be a cheesy sibling story, and I thought the magical aspect of Caraval was going to be a cliché flop. However, I was completely hooked, it was so intriguing! It really portrays the magic as an unpredictable and essentially unnatural aspect, such as through illusions and other effects on the body (rather than a specific magical power). This meant you could never be sure what everything meant, or whether what you saw throughout the book was actually right. Actually, it reminded me a lot of Vassa in the Night, as both books had a unique fantastical element to it.
The world-building was really nice, and it was described wonderfully. The magical dress was also a lovely touch, and I could really picture everything that went on in my head! It felt really immersive, which is a big plus in my book. 🙂 The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the way Scarlett assigned shades of colour to all her emotions. It was definitely a unique touch and I know lots of other bloggers love that feature, but it really didn’t work for me and I didn’t see the point of it (maybe my knowledge of the colour spectrum is a bit poor)?
I was really interested in finding out how Scarlett would find all the clues to reach Tella- especially in a completely different setting like Caraval. I have to admit that I would have been rubbish at the game myself, as I suck at riddles and hidden meanings to things.
There were so many twists and turns in the book too, you never knew what was going to happen or who would suddenly pop out of nowhere. The ending especially had SO many surprises, I kept thinking I understood everything, and then they would reveal something that completely threw me. Kept me on my toes, that’s for sure (which is definitely a good thing). It was also really hard to know if Scarlett was making the right decisions all the time. You can tell that it is a game with high stakes, but it was combined with the child-like wonder that magic can bring. This made it so exciting to read, and I kept getting swept away with it all! Definitely a page-turner. 🙂
That said I wasn’t a big fan of the ending itself. It did have a bittersweet element, but I felt that things wrapped up too easily. It was definitely an anti-climax after all the drama during the Caraval performance, but I think I was expecting the drama to continue right to the end? The ending wasn’t bad, just not what I expected in such a fantastical world.
Although Tella is the goal of Caraval, Scarlett and her game companion Julian are the main characters. Julian is very arrogant and a smooth-talker, but he definitely grew on me during the story. My heart went out for him at certain points in the novel, and I didn’t expect the revelation at the end!! :O
Scarlett was hard to get to grips with at first. She has quite a careful nature at the beginning, and doesn’t like to take big risks like her younger sister. She sees herself as the protector, and doesn’t want to do anything that could get her sister hurt. I found her a bit whiny at the beginning because she wouldn’t commit to anything, or would just worry about it immediately afterward. Granted I do have a similar personality, but in a fast-paced story like this it did feel a bit boring and repetitive. That said it was lovely to see how she grew into herself during her mission to find her sister. She definitely became braver and was willing to stand up for what she believed in, especially after her history with her abusive father.
Overall this book was a lot better than I expected, I can definitely understand why there is so much hype surrounding it! Caraval is a wonderful tale of magic, love (romantic and sibling), sacrifice and the courage to stand up for what you want. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, which is always a winner in my eyes. I would definitely recommend it if you are a fan of Spirited Away and you want to be whisked away to a new fantastical experience.
Have you read this magical book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!!