Title: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA Fantasy
RELEASE DATE: 31st January 2017
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.
Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton Publishers for sending me an ARC Copy of Caraval in exchange for a full honest review.
First off I have to start this review by acknowledging the beautiful book cover, we are all a sucker for a beautiful cover aren’t we?
Caraval doesn’t let us down with this one, it is bright and eye-catching whilst also simultaneously being mysterious with the dark background. The typology of the letters alongside the colour scheme and shapes really screams the essence of Carnival to me and I truly think it reflects the story within. You can see the effort gone into each detail of this book and as a reader and lover of books I love how that tells me that every part of it is well thought out and meaningful.
My copy of the book also has beautiful red edged pages, not to mention it also includes a map in the front showcasing Caraval, as the story progresses you will be able to flick back to the map in order to see where everything is or where the characters currently are.
I of course loved this inclusion of a map as well as how the books narrative is broken up with the inclusion of letters exchanged between Scarlett, Legend and Tella, this was something I really liked. It made the reading experience a little different and for me I felt like I was reading into a private conversation which enhanced my reader experience making it feel more personal.
Stephanie Garber’s world of the Caraval is absolutely outstanding, the description is so exquisite all the way down to the nitty-gritty and the colour detail of the corset dresses. I adored my reading experience of Caraval and by 28 pages in I was already hooked and overwhelmed by how easily I fell into the story and how fast I felt emotionally connected to the characters.
The Setting of Caraval is very interesting and has a dark feel to it as it begins within the patriarchal society of Trisda, Trisda seems a dark, grim place filled that pushes obedience down the throats of its civilians. It is here Scarlett and Tella are raised by their father who likes complete obedience and those who disobey get punished emotionally and physically. I couldn’t stand the Father, I felt like he was truly menacing and brutal with his punishments, if Tella did something wrong then he would physically punish Scarlett therefore he was able to physically and emotionally abuse them by using their guilt for causing the other harm to make sure they never acted out of turn again.
In terms of the Caraval itself, it is an even more descriptive, beautiful and magical place, colour seems to thrive here as everything is so bright and extravagant. The people are performers therefore emotions are heightened and the characters need to be constantly on their guard in order to work out the truth. Seeing is not always believing so you have to question what is reality and what is really magic, as readers you are also swept up within the glamour and disguise and you yourself are left questioning what could be real.
Oh boy! The plot for Caraval is nothing short of outstanding.
Stephanie Garber employs a wide range of genres into this fantasy setting from romance to mystery. This book is truly one that will keep you on your toes and turn you into an active player by making you guess what clues could mean and by making you question what is reality and what is magic.
Caraval is in fact a game, this game however requires the players to find Tella or she is kept forever. This main plot focus is something I have never experienced before and it is so unique to see the people act as pawns as they are placed on a board of clues to find the ultimate prize of Tella. The human element of this game adds to the emotional engagement of the audience as we experience fear and dread for what may happen if a clue is misinterpreted wrong or if Tella isn’t found.
As I read Caraval, I felt like i was continuously knocked off my feet. One minute I thought I knew what was happening but then another wave of betrayal or drama would come Scarlett’s way and I was back to square one, wondering how she would find Tella. Caraval also features death and a mini story begins to run within the original as we learn the story of a previous player Rosa who killed herself by jumping from a balcony. As the story progresses we learn more about Rosa and attempt to understand what the truth is and why she died. By including another story within the bigger story framework, Garber creates an added mystery element whilst also adding the notion of the games history into the story. We see how Scarlett is playing a role played by many others before, I really enjoyed this historical element because the world developed even more for me and I saw that the game never really ends but instead it just finds new players.
In terms of the Romance, which I have to say is my favourite part as it provides some elements of happieness into this world. The Romance for Juliet and Scarlett is slow burning there is real tension between the couple and nothing is rushed but rather their relationship unravels as the game begins to end and the pacing fits perfectly.
Overall Caraval is outstandingly descriptive and detailed, there are so many different levels to this story that you feel the true embrace of its clutches wrap around you and pull you in, as if you are a player yourself. I felt the emotions of Scarlett as she experienced anger and sadness and I felt myself also shouting ‘WHAT?!’ as secrets are revealed.The ending of this book ends on a somewhat surprising cliff hanger which will leave you wanting more straight away. I cannot wait for book 2 to find out more about the history of Carval and all the characters, especially Legend.
This is surely a book that will betray your senses as the betrayals come evident within the story.
When I first started to think about this review, I was about half way through the book and I had a real dislike for Tella. Once she is taken into the Caraval, we don’t see her but leading up to that moment I was getting more and more frustrated with her and found her to be rather selfish however as the story develops you see more to Tella’s charactersand you understand all of her actions have been for a reason. My opinion on her fully changed and I was left feeling so much gratitude for her smart and loving actions, I was also overjoyed that Caraval is focused on the story of two sisters.
Some of the characters in Caraval are not what they seem therefore you are always guessing if each characters actions are genuine or a performance. I particularly liked the role of Legend, whilst he seems so villainous he is also extremely mysterious and we never truly get to see who he is which in itself is a really interesting concept because he is the man who created the Caraval and is the centre of attention; yet he is the one most hidden.
Now I of course cannot leave this section without expressing my love for Julian and Scarlett, I loved their individual characters especially Scarlett who is the POV we exclusively see this story through, Scarlett goes on a real journey throughout this book. Whilst Scarlett has always had Tella’s best interests at heart and the desire to save her sister she also has been scared to go against her father, by the end of the book you see Scarlett truly develop into a strong character who isn’t afraid to stand up against those who have hurt her in the past. Additionally to this I loved the relationship Scarlett and Julian begin to share, you see a true development between them and it is full of twists and turns to keep you on your toes along the way.
Overall I would give Caraval a whole-hearted 5 stars, this is a story that is so beautifully enchanting. You will find yourself hooked from page 1 right through to the end with its unique plot and exquisite description. It truly is unlike anything I have ever read before and there was so much packed into the 397 pages that I never expected to happen therefore I was always kept on my toes. An unpredictable read is always the best read.
Stephanie Garber’s setting, plot and characters are all so intricetly developed that I was lost in the book so easily, I cannot wait for the second book.
P.S… I hear the rights for this book have already been snapped up, a movie version would be amazing as I would love to see these characters and this beautiful world come to life.
From betrayal to mystery and love, you won’t see what’s coming from the Caraval but you are in for one hell of a ride.
Let me know if Caraval is on your TBR list for this year!