Caraval has to be the most hyped young adult release so far this year. It is supposed to be perfect for fans of The Night Circus and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, two other hugely popular books. The former is actually one of my all-time favourites, so I had very high expectations from Caraval and it did not disappoint. What’s more, Twentieth Century Fox have already enquired about the movie rights so this book is only going to get more and more popular.
Keeping reading to see what all the hype is about…
The story begins on the isle of Trisda. Scarlett is engaged to Count d’Arcy, a man she has never met before, but she is convinced that he is the key to freeing her and her sister from their father’s tyranny. After a failed escape attempt two year earlier, this seems like their only option. However, every year, Scarlett has written a letter to Caraval Master Legend, begging him to bring his magical five-day show to Trisda. She has never received a response – until now. Scarlet is due to be married in just a few days but can she resist the Caraval Master’s long awaited invitation to his infamous game?
I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t sold on this book. It was a really interesting story but I didn’t see what made it better than a lot of other very popular young adult novels out there right now. Then, Scarlett, Tella and Julian arrived at Caraval and the story really kicked off. Caraval is a five-day performance in which the audience participates. It’s only a game – or so the players are told. However, it becomes quite increasingly obvious as time passes by that there’s something else at work at Caraval. Things are not at all as they seem but we aren’t really given any clues as to what is really driving the plot and this yearly performance. I felt like I was in the dark for a long time but it kept me on my toes and I raced through this book.
There’s so much mystery in this story and I truly had no clue what plot twists were coming my way. There’s a hint of magic, dark magic more specifically, underlying everything here and I loved that as time went on the story became more and more black. There were some passages where I was rather disturbed or, at least, very shocked by what was happening and the performance certainly isn’t designed to be a happy and enjoyable experience for the players.
As for the characters, sisters Scarlett and Donatella couldn’t be any more different in personality, but they are both fiercely loyal to each other. Or at least they were before the game began. Scarlett is the “sensible” older sister and Donatella is the rebellious younger sister. Scarlett grew on me quite a lot as the story went on and she realised that the world had so much more to offer her. Her eyes are re-opened and she sees that she doesn’t need to settle for the marriage her father has arranged. She’s definitely not the feistiest female protagonist out there but the Scarlett we meet at the beginning of this book is very different from the Scarlett who’s been playing Caraval for five days. Her character develops quite a lot and I think she’ll only become even stronger in the next book.
My favourite character was Julian, partially because he sounds super yummy, but also because he is the most mysterious character. He tells you not to trust him and yet lots of things he does make you want to and you’re never quite sure what his motivations are. At the end of Caraval, Julian’s story is revealed and that is probably the most exciting plot twist there is. He’s certainly not a character you should ignore and he is integral to the plot’s developments.
Predictably there’s an element of romance in this story but nothing much comes of it until the latter half of the book. It doesn’t add a huge amount to main plot for the most part but it was a nice little side story. This storyline does become wrapped up in the numerous plot twists at the end so I have high hopes that this’ll become more exciting and significant in the subsequent books.
All in all, Caraval is a fantastic debut novel from Stephanie Garber and it blew me away. It has elements of magic, mystery and adventure, which will have you turning those pages like crazy! This is a little different from a lot of the other young adult stuff out there right now so I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a fast-paced tale that will take you and your emotions on a roller-coaster ride.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this:
Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .
Many thanks to Hodder for providing me with a review copy!