Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Monday, January 30, 2017

Untitled #1
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: January 31st, 2017
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: ARC Trade
Pages: 416

Summary (from Goodreads):

Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and 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.

Scarlett and Donatella Dragna are sisters living under their cruel father's rule on the Conquered Isle of Trisda. Over the years, Scarlett has written seven letters to the Caraval Master Legend, asking him and his performers to bring their magical performance to Trisda. After the seventh letter, he finally sends a response, along with three tickets to this year's game.

But it can never work out because it comes right before Scarlett is arranged to be married to a man she has never met. She is ready to be married if only because it means that she and her sister will be safe and out of their father's evil clutches.

But things don't work out quite in Scarlett's favor when she ends up being taken to the island where Caraval is being held, against her will and better judgment. When her sister is kidnapped, it forces Scarlett to play the game and find her sister before it's too late.

Scarlett is the main character in this story. She is most definitely the more sensible sister. In everything she does, her main driving force is her fierce love for her sister. She would do anything for her to keep Tella safe. She has even gone so far as to make sure that Tella can come with her when she's married so that Governor Dragna can never hurt her again.

I liked Scarlett. I thought she was down to earth. She's willing to do what needs to be done. She frustratingly doesn't pay enough attention during the game and it causes her to make some mistakes.  But she's also really smart and seems to do really well with the clues given during the scavenger hunt. But she also has the ultimate motivation as her sister is the one who was kidnapped and needs to be found to win the game. And Scarlett isn't convinced that she's in the best hands.

Tella is considerably more adventurous and outgoing than Scarlett. She doesn't seem to care so much about her general safety, she just wants to be free of her father's cruelty. During this book, I went back and forth on what I thought about Tella. I think I decided that I just didn't like her. She's really selfish. She uses Scarlett's love for her to get what she wants, no matter who it hurts in the process and doesn't seem to think anything of it. I literally think that at one point, Scarlett tells her she loves her and Tella just says something along the lines of, "I know." Seriously? Get out of here.

I really liked the sister relationship featured in the book, even if I didn't like one of the sisters. I liked that the sisterly love was the motivation for everything that happens in this book. I would totally do the same thing for my sister, but I think she'd be more appreciative of me, to be honest.

Julian is also someone that it took me a little while to decide what my feelings were about him. He just comes off as a shady sailor in the beginning, but he really grew on me! So much so that he made his way onto my book boyfriend list! He is really secretive and doesn't really tell Scarlett much, even when they start to develop a closeness. But he is just so sweet and is really invaluable to Scarlett in her search for her missing sister. He gives up something really big in order to help Scarlett in the games. I loved it.

I absolutely loved the romance in this book. Julian and Scarlett work really well together and the relationship they develop is really awesome. They start off not really caring for each other, but when they're forced to work together in the game they get close. It's complicated for Scarlett because she's arranged to be married and has every intention of trying to make it back to Trisda for it if only for Tella's sake. I really want the second book in this duology just so that I can get more Julian and Scarlett!

This book had a really magical feeling to it overall. Parts of it reminded me of the same magical feeling as Alice in Wonderland. There's so much mystery because you don't know what's real and what's a trick meant to confuse you. This book has a swoon worthy romance, heartbreak, and terrifying villains.

The only thing that I didn't really like about this book was the ending. I can't really say a lot about what specifically I didn't like, but I felt like something happened to just conveniently explain why everything in the book happened and just kinda magically fixes everything. Everything in this book wrapped up nicely, except for the little cliffhanger right at the end that let's you know what's coming in the other book of this duology.

Overall, this was an EXCELLENT book. The magical quality and the mystery of it all was amazing and the romance was sweet. The sister relationship in the book was nice to read about and I'm super excited for the conclusion to this novel! I just wish I didn't have to wait so long for it! :'(

Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it?

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