Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval feels like a mystical fairgrounds with a twist of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland 

Scarlett is a responsible older sister desperate to protect her sister Tella from their abusive father. He was always a tough man to handle but he became murderously dangerous after their mother disappeared without a trace. Tella doesn’t make it easy on Scarlett. She has a wild heart and doesn’t take life as seriously as Scarlett. While Scarlett thinks that her arranged marriage will save her and Tella from their life on Trisda, Tella thinks the marriage would be a new prison for Scarlett. Tella is desperate to protect Scarlett from a marriage to a man she’s never met.

So sure that she can save them both, Tella make a wreckless decision to get both of them to Caraval where they can earn a wish from a man known as Legend. Scarlett should be thrilled at her chance to go to Caraval. It’s a magical game hosted by the mysterious Legend. You have to be invited to Caraval where you have a choice to play or observe. Despite having written to Legend for years, hoping to get an invitation, Scarlett is worried that Caraval will ruin her chance at her arranged marriage. All Scarlett wants is to leave Caraval with Tella right away so they can return to Trisda in time for her wedding. Leaving Caraval with Tella is no easy feat. Scarlett has to play the game.

Don’t get carried away at Caraval, it’s only a game

Caraval GifStephanie Garber weaves a darkly elegant setting for Caraval. The games are played at night and everyone retreats inside during the day. At night everything seems enhanced. The encounters with people, the shops and scenery, it’s a heightened experience. The players are mysterious as well. It is said that some of them are just there for the adventure while others ruthlessly want to win. Every item and every bit of information at Caraval will cost you something valuable. It could be a secret, it could be time from the game, nothing is free.

This story was not predictable. Their was a romantic involvement that had it’s own set of surprises. Nothing involving the games was obvious. Every decision Scarlett had to make could have been disastrous to her chances. At times I worried she’d risked too much. I felt like no one could be trusted and that all of them were out to trick her. Yet Scarlett took chances based on her will to win for her and Tella.

Who is Legend?

Throughout Caraval I kept thinking I’d figured out who Legend truly was but of course I was wrong. As I said, not predictable. When Scarlett comes face to face with Legend my jaw literally dropped. This scene in the tunnels is very intense. Secrets and the true nature of characters are revealed. Is any of it really true, or is it the distortion that occurs from the dark tunnels?

I can’t recommend this book enough. As a person who loved The Night Circus I can see why reviewers are comparing it to Caraval. Both have a darkness with magic and adventure. Both books take place in such a creative place created by talented authors. Caraval is very well written, and while it isn’t Sarah Garber’s first book written, it is her first ever published. This is a knockout debut book, and I sure hope for a movie adaption. For now, I anxiously await the next book this May!


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