Review: ‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find yourself magic in this world.

And yes it is.

‘Caraval’ is the debut novel by author Stephanie Garber which has been released on January 31st by Flatiron Books. The Hardcover book has a length of 407, a sequel should come out.

Scarlett and Donatella Dragna are two sister, living on a island called Dragna, dreaming of whatever peaceful life they can get since their father knows no limits in punishing his daughters for whatever reasons. When Scarlett is getting engaged she assumes that this will be not only her but her sister’s rescue, dreaming of a new life with her soon-to-be husband and saying goodbye to her dreams of attending Caraval – a once-a-year-performance which allows spectators to become players. Until the invitation arrives. Three tickets. To Caraval. And so Tella, with help of a handsome sailor, whisks Scarlett away and right to Caraval. But nothing is like it seems and as soon the sisters get to the Caraval Master Legend’s island, Tella gets kindnapped. Because this year’s play revolves arround Scarlett sister. And to win she needs to be found. And if Scarlett ever wants to see her again, she needs to find her and win. 

Scarlett knew that everything that happens in Caraval is not true, that it’s a perfomance. Still she finds herself in a game of magic, loss, love and heartbreak. 

I jumped into this story without really knowing much of the plot. I knew Caraval was sort of a circus or show where people could either watch or play. And I’ve heard great things about the world-building which I only can agree with. 

When I started reading this book I already knew I would like Scarlett and Julian while I wasn’t sure about Tella’s character. So I ignored the feeling of probably hating Scarlett’s sister and just let the book consume me while I was consuming it. 

And it blew my mind.

It’s just a game, I repeat. It’s just a game, I say to myself with each chapter I read. But it definitely swept me away as well. 

Scarlett’s character was great. She has a big heart, is intelligent, and tries very (very) hard to do right which leads to her less likeable attribute – she overthinks & regrets. A lot. (Maybe this is only my opinion, since I really wanted something certain to happen and she refused…. if you’ve read it, you might know what I mean! *smirk*)

Julian, the sailor who is responsible for Scarlett being at Legend’s island, is amazing. Everytime when you think you know him, you realize you don’t. Still, I can only love his character and the part he plays in this story! *swooning* Though he needs to make up one or two things (you really need!!!).

Donatella or as everyone calls her, Tella. Well I had issues. I got mostly why she acts the way she acts… Still, she frustrated me a lot. Really a lot. During the whole book. However since she didn’t have quite some ‘screen-time’ I am excited to see what will happen in book two. 

Overall I had the feeling that most characters had a special twist to them and felt real even though I should know better and not call them “real”. I think it’s safe to say that I hated Scarlett’s father and never really got why he was like that. Also I disliked Master Legend during the book, but how little do I know…. IT IS A GAME 🤦🏼‍♀️

The experience I had reading Caraval was truly close to magic. Stephanie Garber’s writing style is beautiful. It felt so often like reading the most beautiful poem ever. The way of describing everything with colors, emotions and smells was fantastic. The place grew to my heart and I felt like being in the middle of it. I felt like being surrounded between roses and gold and the sweetest smell of all time. I don’t know how, but that effortless writing style is already worth reading this book. 

The plot as well, though. Because it was…. mind blowing. I don’t know how many times I thought I knew it but then suddenly it happen to be completely wrong and everything came out differently. I had no chance in predicting the story line. No chance! As a reader, you just get swept away like the spectators and you can’t do anything about it. 

My rating: 5/5 stars 


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