Thursday, January 26, 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

by Stephanie Garber
Read: January 18 - 23, 2017
Published: January 31, 2017 by Flatiron Books
Source: ALA MW 2016 (Better late than never!)
Category: YA, Fantasy, Magic
Series:  Yes. At least one more book. Possible companion

Book Description: Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

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.

Scarlett has grown up hearing stories of Caraval from her grandmother and has always been enchanted by the wonder of a traveling performance where the audience takes part. But living all her life on an island with her sister and controlled by their cruel father, she's never been able to go herself. Now when Scarlett is weeks away from an arranged marriage she hopes will take her and her sister far away from their home and father, she finally receives an invitation to the show. Scarlett isn't sure what to do, but Tella takes things into her own hands and makes the decision for Scarlett - they're going to Caraval. But as soon as they arrive at the show (with the help of a roguish sailor) Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's mastermind Legend. Now Scarlett must find her sister and win the game before the show ends, her father finds out where she is, and she loses everything. 

While life with their father has made Scarlett cautious, Tella has grown up wild and rebellious. In the beginning I didn't know what to think of either of them, but as the story went on, I grew to like Scarlett a lot more - and Tella a lot less. Although Scarlett's behavior could be frustrating at times, I can definitely relate to her. She is not a risk taker by nature and is trying to make as few waves as possible. All she wants is to protect her sister and get them both away from their father. Although Scarlett has never met her fiancé, she sees her arranged marriage as the way to do that, and she is terrified of messing that up. Tella, on the other hand, wants Scarlett to get out and live life. But she also comes across as very selfish, and I didn't like her thorough most of this story.

From the start I admired Scarlett for her loyalty to her sister and determination to rescue her at all cost, but the more she got caught up in the performance of Caraval and began to take risks and make choices for herself, the more I liked her. It was rewarding to see Scarlett worry less as she took control of her own life. As much as this tale is a fun and mysterious fantasy, it is also the story of two girls who have grown up in an abusive home, who have learned to survive in different ways, and who have to figure out their own ways to escape. I think the true magic of this story is the mix between the enchanting fantasy and brutal, honest themes. 

Did you notice I mentioned a sailor above? Well that is Julian. We meet him in a bit of an uncomfortable and compromising situation, but as is everything with Caraval, nothing is what it seems. As with Scarlett, I grew to like him a lot more as the story continued. He begins as a sort of reluctant ally to Scarlett on her quest to rescue her sister, but their relationship slowly changes and deepens as the book continues. This is a slow burn, and as with everything in Caraval, Julian isn't exactly what he appears. But he is good for Scarlet, and I loved seeing them begin to trust each other. Julian challenges her, and they rescue each other repeatedly, and I enjoyed their interactions so much. I only wish that once the dust settled from all the revelations, we'd have a chance to get to know him even more. 

I don't know where this story is going. I know there will be a sequel, and the end of this book seems to set that up as a companion following another character. However, I'm not sure Scarlett's story is completely over either. As long as no one messes with Scarlet and Julian, I can't wait to find out what happens next. We still have some revelations to uncover and mysteries to solve. 

Caraval has a lot of hype. A lottttt of it. And that definitely played into my reading of the story. On the one hand, I can see the comparison to The Night Circus, and if I'd read Caraval without anyone telling me it was similar, I would have made the connection myself. A magical circus-like place that is only opened at night? In this case it's a game, but its impossible to miss the similarities. While that helped to define this story, it also managed to work against me a little bit. Because, while I enjoyed Caraval a great deal, The Night Circus is one of my favorite books of ALL TIME and in comparison, this just isn't quite there for me. But still Caraval was a really great story, full of twists and mysteries and magic. I'd highly recommend it. 

Love Triangle Factor: None. (Spoiler: Scarlett does have a fiancé when the book begins, but she's never met him and has no romantic feelings for him besides hoping he'll be able to rescue her and her sister from their father. /End Spoiler)

Cliffhanger Scale: Low. Epilogue definitely sets up another book. But story does not end in a painful or dangerous way.


  1. I have to say, I'm really pleased to hear that there isn't a love triangle in this - even if I'm too bullheaded to read the spoiler. :P I've heard a load of good things about Caraval. I might have to pick it up from the library to check out even if I wasn't a huge fan of The Night Circus. I'm a sucker for stories about sisters. Excellent review!

  2. Lovely review Lauren :D Yaaay for enjoying this one a lot, despite some issues. <3 Hugs. I hope I will like it too. Fingers crossed :) You do make me so so curious.

  3. I love the idea of a magic circus! Glad this was a good read even if it didn't quite met The Night Circus standard ;) I look forward to checking this out. Lovely review, Lauren!

  4. Liked this book overall even though I wasn't a big fan of either sister. They were both such extreme stereotypes of "good girl" and "bad girl" that I found it hard to connect.
    Jen @ YA Romantics


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