Caraval follows two sisters, Scarlet and Donatella, invited as special guests to a historic and mythical magic show called Caraval. In a turn of events they find themselves to be pawns rather than players and the audience they’re among are not always who they say they are.
Stephanie Garber’s debut is a fast-paced 400+ page novel that you will easily fly through in one or two sittings. It took me two days to finish and absolutely fall in love with! Every chapter leaves you wanting more and the book does nothing short of deliver.
This book might have my favourite world-building of all time. Albeit, the world in Caraval is not very different from our own, there are some distinct differences. The introduction of different aspects of the world were so seamlessly done it almost felt natural. The subtlety in her detailed retelling of her vision of this magical place, Caraval, is what makes the world so perfect to me. Garber’s writing makes for a great YA novel that readers both young and old can appreciate.
Caraval, the actual show, is performed on a very peculiar island almost reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. There are clocks that work different and the contestants are only allowed to compete from sundown to sunup. One thing that confused me a lot was the time-management. It is quite clever that they are only allowed to be out during the dark because that’s how secrets to most magic tricks are hidden. But the execution could have been a bit more fine-tuned. The characters seemed to get very little or no sleep at all and breakfasts and lunches and dinners overlapped each other. Some other inconsistency that bothered me was the sudden obsession with buttons that was not introduced to the reader earlier. Or, if it was, not enough for me to pick up on their importance.
The characters were complex and mysterious, they make you physically curve into the book because of how tangible they are. Scarlett and Donatella make for a great sibling dynamic; they love each other very much and have gone through a lot but they are very different. Their relationship is, I think, very easy to identify with if you have a sibling or a very close friend. It’s very interesting to see how they grew up in the exact same harsh environment and came out as polar opposites, I believe it sparks a very important discussion on how environment is not the only thing that shapes a human. Maybe, I’m just reading into things but I thought that was fascinating to focus more on.
Another great character I haven’t mentioned but is the key-protagonist in the story is Legend, the magician and direction or Caraval. He is almost never seen and there are no chapters that revolve around his current state, we learn a bit about his past but find out little else. The mystery and intrigue built around him is phenomenal and the lack of reveal in the first book is what will make readers pick up the second installation.
What truly solidified my love for Caraval, the book, the show, the world, was how realistic Garber wrote the relationship between Julian and Scarlett. Julian is the one that takes Scarlett and Donatella to the island on which Caravl is set. Without spoiling anything, Julian is my baby cinnamon roll that I will die for and haunt. He is also the one that remains with Scarlett as she looks for her kidnapped sister. If you haven’t guessed by the beginning of this paragraph, I ship them as fuck!
Scarlett’s quest to find her sister is never put on the back-burner for a stupid and unrealistic love story to unfold. The book is about sisterly love and one girl’s desperate attempt to get her sister and best-friend back. Garber writes her characters sensibly with just a dash of crazy, like we were all made. Falling in love, having feelings, never depreciates or incapacitates the women in the story. That is something rarely seen in the YA Fantasy world, unfortunately. When will the “girl falls in love, girls becomes incapable of continuing her quest” trope fucking die!
I’m looking forward to the continuation of this series and I am so happy to have broken my first new years resolution of not starting unfinished book series! For the next book I hope we see more of Julian and Scarlett’s relationship but also more of Legend, the mystic magician behind the show!
Title: Caraval, Author: Stephanie Garber, Genre: YA Fantasy, Trigger warning: Abuse and manipulation, Publication date: 31 Jan 2017, Rating: /5