Book Review: Caraval

This book has been everywhere lately. Every time I check my Insagram feed, there it is, tempting me like the invitation printed on the back of the book. Usually I’m the last on the hype-train, but with all the praise going around for Stephanie Garber‘s debut novel, Caraval, I decided to jump on board early to see what all the fuss was about. And I am so, so glad that I did. I know it’s early in the year, but this is absolutely going to be one of my favourite books of 2017, and of all time. It’s stellar in every way, shape, and form. I couldn’t get enough. I literally had trouble sleeping one night since a particular twist near the end kept rolling through my head. Absolutely mesmerizing from awesome start to spectacular finish. All I want to do is read it again and see if I can pick out all the clues masterfully woven into this gorgeous book, which is stylized and designed differently than anything I’ve read before. This is a must-have for readers looking for something memorable and truly magical in 2017.

An original world. A legendary competition. A mesmerizing romance. An unbreakable bond between two sisters. 

Welcome to Caraval!

Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and 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.

***

Right from the outset, you know this book is unique. Not only is the first chapter a single sentence, sections of the book are designed with actual notes and letters, making for a unique reading experience. Now, I love that, since I rarely ever see it, but the book scores its highest points with its beautiful story. Every event is expertly crafted, nothing is by accident, and literally nothing is as it seems. The world building was vivid and absolutely beautiful. I truly felt like I was transported to a magical place given how everything was described. The “clues” were substantial and led to mystery, adventure, and character development.

Said characters are stellar. Every characters, even the side ones, are unique and compelling, but the two leads take the proverbial cake. Main character Scarlett is a stellar hero, brave and selfless and tentative about this new experience. She’s easy to relate to and you always want to cheer her on. Julian is worth melting for––a heartthrob I just couldn’t get enough of, and whose secrets had me biting my nails and literally robbing me of sleep.

The twist at the end literally left me stunned. I couldn’t believe it. I’m still actually trying to process it. As a whole, the story was elegantly written by an author who I literally am begging a sequel from (Stephanie, if you’re reading this, please tell me there will be more books! I need more of this world, more Scarlett, and all the Julian!).

I’m going with my gut on this one: Stephanie Garber is an author to watch out for. I’m willing to bet that because of Caraval, she’ll find herself up there in the ranks of Sarah J. Maas, Alexandra Bracken, Sabaa Tahir, and other Young Adult fantasy queens who are making waves in their industry and inspiring new authors everywhere. Caraval has already inspired me, and I was more than happy to be swept away and lost in the game. Do not miss out on this book!

Amy

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