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.
RAVE REVIEW: 5 Magical STARS
After thinking I no longer liked fantasy, I decided to join my two BFFs, Larkin @ Wonderfilled Reads and Britt @ Geronimo Reads since they were crazy fangirling about this book. Well, I’m happy to report that I do still like fantasy and that I absolutely LOVED and ADORED every second of this book. From the writing to the characters to the story, I was hooked from the first page.
This book is special. It’s very rare that I am able to find myself so fully immersed in a fantasy world. There’s often so much back story and world building in fantasy novels that I have a hard time connecting with the book. That was not the case with Caraval. I read all 407 pages in about six hours. Yes, you read that correctly. I started the book around 9 p.m. and literally read until I finished and woke up at 4 a.m. with the book still in my hand. I even had the light on when I woke up.
The last time I read a novel with this many pages that was not a contemporary romance was The Hunger Games in 2010. Considering that’s one of my favorite series and the only series I have read more than once, that says a lot about this book. For some people, the writing may be off-putting. The prose is very flowery, probably the most flowery writing I’ve read in a really long time, but it worked so well with this story and the world building that it didn’t bother me at all.
Let’s Talk About The Characters…
Scarlett is about to get married to a royal she has never met to not only get away from her horrible father but to make sure her sister comes with her and is also safe from dear old dad. For years, Scarlett dreamed of watching a performance by the Caraval players. Caraval has some similarities to The Night Circus with how they are a traveling act that never plays in the same city more than once, but the stories are vastly different. I couldn’t connect with the Night Circus and had to temporarily DNF, where with Caraval, I was completely swept away. Scarlett wrote letters to Legend, the illusive magician who runs the show, for most of her childhood until one day she writes to Legend and tells him she is getting married. Then, surprise, surprise she gets an invite to the magical island where the game is hosted that year.
Scarlett is terrified of her father and afraid to leave right before her wedding. But it has been her dream to meet Legend and become part of the game, after hearing about it from her grandmother as a child. What’s interesting about the game is that no one knows what they’re getting themselves into until after they’ve made it to the island. I really enjoyed how Scarlett developed over time because she was so uptight in the beginning. She really grew on me as the pages flew by. I also attribute Julian to making her more likable.
Scarlett’s sister, Tella, begs her to go to Caraval with the help of Julian, a man she just met who offers to help them to the island. You see very little of Tella once they leave for the island, but to keep the mystery, I don’t want to divulge too much about her character. Tella plays an integral role in the overall plot of this story, and I thought her parts of the book were really interesting. I can’t wait to read more about her in the next book.
OMG swoon! Julian is my new book boyfriend! I was so hooked on him from the start, and I just loved him more and more as the story progressed. Wow! His character is so complex and different from my typical book boyfriends. He sounded so yummy and not in my normal ripped hockey player kind of way. There was so much mystery surrounding his character. I had the hardest time getting a read on him for most of the story, but by the end, I was like marry me! He’s just too cute for words. Sorry, ladies, he’s mine!
Everything with Legend is a game. He’s mysterious and intriguing and you have no idea who he is or what he looks like. His character reminded me of a sexy Voldemort. (Ha! Don’t come at me with pitchforks just yet.) You know he exists, you know he’s playing games with the characters, controlling them like puppets on a string, but you have no idea what he wants or when he will appear. Or if he’ll even appear at all. You might even find yourself sort of falling for Legend if you allow him to suck you in too much because he has this magnetism that lured me in. I think Larkin was in love with Legend. Britt and I were fangirling hard over Julian.
Let’s Talk About The Plot
So, with that said, the plot of this story was fantastic. The way Garber threw me through so many loops and had me second guessing everything I thought I knew was beyond brilliant. One of my status updates on Goodreads even mentioned that Caraval is a masterpiece. That’s a compliment I do not hand out lightly. I was so wrapped up in the story I was at a loss for words once I reached the last page. I felt as if I went on an Easter egg hunt, with plot devices planted throughout, making me think I had it all figured out and then BAM I got played! Garber played me so hard at some points in the book that I was like damn she must be a witch.
For hardcore fantasy fans, I think this book would be right up your alley since I am an every genre kind of girl and tend to branch out after each book I read. I’m also super picky and will DNF a book after one page. I’ve done it even after one paragraph. That’s how hard I am to please when it comes to devoting my time to a book. I’m sure there are some who are not fans of this book because of the prose or maybe even the story, but I fell in love with it hard.
Do I recommend it? Hell, yeah!
Go read it now! Grab a copy from Amazon.
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