Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 407
Pacing: Normal
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published: January 31st, 2017

 

Trigger Warnings: Parental Abuse (mental and physical), attempted sexual assault, suicidal themes

 

 

Remember, it’s only a game… Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever. Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away. – Synopsis from Goodreads. 

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“Some would probably call him a villain. Others would say his magic makes him closer to a god.” 

This is my second read through of Caraval and I’m still completely enamored with this series. It has quickly became one of my favorite series of all-time for its rich setting, wonderful characters and its ability to completely turn itself upside down constantly and I never have a clue what is going to happen. I love it so much.

Caraval starts off with two sisters, Scarlett and Tella, arguing over the possibility of running away. Scarlett has just received an invitation to Caraval after many years for writing it’s creator Legend, but she is getting married soon and doesn’t want to let anything mess up her chances with that. Tella also has stuck in a young man, Julian that has offered to help them get to Caraval for the small price of one of the invitations. Small issue, the sisters father is an abusive, controlling psychopath, whom the girls are scared to death of and Scarlett knows he would kill one of them if they even thought about leaving. Of course, a bunch of events leads to them running off to play the mysterious game of Caraval and so the story begins.

There is a good chance that you’ve either read this or heard that this is a book that you will either love or completely hate, that seems to be the case. I’m not completely sure why it’s so polarizing, usually when I read something I get when something is going to not be for a lot of people but this one kind of confuses me. There seems to be a lot of hate for the main character Scarlett. I think this is likely because she worries about a fiancee that she has never met every step of the way, and panics a lot about it. I personally don’t think people are really being fair to her though. She is someone who lost her mom at a young age, has been living in a hell with her father while being mentally and physically abused and watching her sister endure the same treatment. Scarlett may be naive but she truly believes that this mysterious fiance is her ticket out of completely and utter hell, I think her decisions are all based on fear at first and we watch her evolve and grow over time and come into her own much more. I really love her and I completely ship her with Julian.

In this one, I actually found Tella to be infuriating because I’m much more of a introverted, cautious type, so I could relate to the worrying Scarlett, much more than the reckless, risk-taking Tella. She was much to impulsive and came off as selfish a lot of the time. This is an opinion that changes further along in the series but I was ready to throw Tella off the balcony myself a couple times – just saying LOL

The setting of Caraval was perfection. It was beautiful, but eerie at the same time. You always got the sense something was odd and could be dangerous. I thought the author did a wonderful job setting up each and every place and every character. I have no problem imagining this crazy world that Legend and his performers have put together. I really loved all of Legend’s players and performer’s they added a ton of ambiance to the story and the bartering system was downright devislish and I was always excited to see what they would try to get from Scarlett next.

Like I said, this seems to be a really polarizing book in the community but I’m still going to recommend it highly – at least give a shot and see what you think. It’s one of the only fantasy series that has kept me on my toes and I’ve never met anyone who truly seems to have guessed what is actually going on with Caraval and Legend. I think that speaks volumes in itself.

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