My review of Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long 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 than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly 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.

A mesmerising, magical and stunningly imaginative debut novel for anyone who loved The Night Circus.

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I need to start off by saying… how BEAUTIFUL is that cover?!! It was, as usual, one of the things that attracted me to it. What makes it even better is that the hardcover, under the dust jacket, has 4 different designs and which one you get is a secret. I got this book from NetGalley, but that reason alone makes me want to rush out to buy the hardcover! Just LOOK at them. They’re all beautiful and I want them all! (Which one is your favourite?)

Caraval - secret covers behind the dust jacket

What is Caraval About?

Caraval begins with two sisters, Scarlett and Tella Dragna, talking about the mysterious game that happens every year called – you guessed it – Caraval. Caraval is a game full of magic and mystery, set up by Legend – a person no-one has actually seen in real life. Tella, the more adventurous, fearless sister, is bursting to go and experience it. She wants to get off their isle of Trisda, away from their abusive father, and get lost in the magic of the game. Scarlett, however, it less excited to go. She’s engaged to marry a count through arranged marriage, and she’s the type of person who prefers comfort and safety over adventure and the unknown.

After being persuaded to go after all, the sisters head to Caraval – but as soon as they get there, Tella is kidnapped by Legend himself. Scarlett must find her sister before the game is over – before it’s too late. Why is the game centered around these two sisters? And is Caraval all it’s made out to be?

The Story

I absolutely loved the mystery, suspense and magic of the whole book. The town in which Caraval is set is described so well and in so much detail that it made me want to visit it myself! There were cool twists which made the story more interesting to read. For example, the game only ran at night, with the buildings and shops only opening after dark. This added to the intrigue and the mystery of the game.

The story moved along at a great pace. I never found myself wanting to read ahead to see what happened next; I was reading it completely in the moment, wanting to devour every word. The twists and turns were unexpected. Seriously, every single twist that happened throughout the whole book, I didn’t expect at all! It added so much to the story, when I thought I’d worked out who was who and what was about to happen, and suddenly I was completely wrong. It turned people into unexpected bad guys, and places with no value into the next big clue. I loved it!

The Romance

As I kind of expected there would be, there was a romance element to the story. I felt a bit mehhh about this when I saw it coming. I didn’t hate it, though, and as the story progressed, I could see that it was going to happen, so I wasn’t surprised. The great thing was that there were even huge plot twists in the relationship! Gotta love a good plot twist. (If you love plot twists as much as I do, this is the book for you. There are TONS of them.)

The story really kept me on the edge of my seat (wow, really going for the cliches in this post!) the whole time. I loved how the story was put together, and how the characters were always changing. I didn’t feel too involved with any of the characters, but it didn’t really matter. In a story like this, I felt that maybe the narrative was more important than getting to know the characters too deeply. I must have felt involved with the characters on a certain level though, because when bad and unexpected things happened to them, I was so shocked!

The Verdict

Stephanie Garber’s writing was SO good that each and every development was amazing, well thought-out, and nothing was left unanswered. The book ended on an open note which makes me excited to see what will come next! If you love magic, mystery and CRAZY plot developments, this is 100% the book for you. READ IT RIGHT NOW.

Thank you so much to NetGalley for a copy of this book in return for an honest review. You can buy a copy of the book on Amazon*, or read more about the book on Goodreads.

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