Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic 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.
Astounding! This feels like The Night Circus only grander, brighter, dreamier, and the romance —sweeter. I think it reminds me of The Night Circus because both promises an interesting kind of competition that involves magic but we don’t really see much of the competition in both books. Both have this strong, magical, feel within the grounds where the competitions were held but the resemblance between the two ends there. The plots and twists were very much different. The magic and the performances were even more magnificent in Caraval. The characters held more mysteries, and secrets, and unknown agendas. The plot lines were thicker and therefore much more intriguing. I loved every word of it!
“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.”
I am simply in awe of how Stephanie Garber weaved the strands of magic, adventure, romance, and wonder, so seamlessly! It was exquisitely written with luxurious descriptions and reading it was like opening a door into a marvelous world oozing with magic and vibrant colors. Really, the imagery within this book was superb and it’s all easy to visualize the strange and bewitching setting of Caraval.
Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.
The characters were both strong-willed and flawed. I particularly liked the strong sisterly bond between Scarlett and Tella. After their mother left them, their father changed into someone manipulative, controlling, and abusive. So Scarlett and Tella learned to look after each other. Tella is the wilder, braver, more aggressive, and spirited sister who wanted to just escape their father’s clutches the moment an opportunity presents itself. And I absolutely love her. Scarlett is the cautious and the wary one. She’s arranged to be married to a Count that she haven’t even met. She believed that her marriage with the Count is the only way out of her father’s island and that it’s the key to her and Tella’s freedom. Sometimes I find her thoughts irritating as she thinks of Tella not loving her as much. But I guess that’s just Scarlett and her insecurities. You’ll see that she’s the right amount of strength and insecurities that makes her a really believable and relatable character. And at the end of the day, she’s always the sister that Tella deserves.
Scarlett and Tella weren’t supposed to leave the island (father’s rules) but when they received an invitation to join an exclusive Caraval competition, they couldn’t really just ignore it, can they? Upon their arrival at the remote island where Caraval is held Scarlett was immediately parted with Tella and it turns out that winning the game requires finding her sister. I love that even when Caraval repeatedly put Scarlett’s and Tella’s bond to test they didn’t easily break. There were distractions on Scarlett’s side (because Julian! That hunk of a sailor!) but her desire to find and protect her sister is front and center.
The romance is swoon-worthy. Seriously swoon-worthy. Julian is one charming romantic interest. He is roguish and there’s always a hint of mischievousness in him that somehow gave him a mysterious appeal despite being such a flirt. I love seeing Julian’s and Scarlett’s relationship gradually growing. At first Scarlett was no more than just Julian’s ticket to enter Caraval and Julian was but a sailor who could take Scarlett to her sister. They were strangers who doesn’t trust or even like each other. Then they became allies to survive the game. Later they become friends and they started to care about each other… and boy, it’s been long since a couple filled me with such glee!
For this book, the character that held most of my interest would be Legend. We didn’t even get a glimpse of what he looks like and he wasn’t even physically there the whole time, and yet his absence didn’t stop him from taking so much of my attention. He is like this character who is never there but still managed to intimidate the other characters, was still able to leave a sense of creepiness for the readers. Legend’s name alone brings an air of menace in the atmosphere. Maybe I really just have a soft spot for villains who have sad and heartbreaking back stories or maybe it’s my fascination with elusive and mystifying characters that worked on Legend’s favor… Well, sue me, but he is my favorite!
“They didn’t travel here for truth, they came for an adventure.”
Caraval isn’t just a world dripping with magic. It is one that breathes deception. We never know who’s who, who can be trusted and who can not, unless not during the game. It kept me guessing until the very end only to find that all of my guesses were wrong (and it doesn’t usually happen)! Trust me, there’s a fat chance that you won’t guess right either. Not with Caraval’s twisted tricks and thoroughly convincing performers.
Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.
I think the next book of this series will be just as phenomenal. I loved Tella and I’m really curious about Legend and that puzzling ending was kind of hinting that I’ll be seeing more of these two in the next book. And I’m dying to really know about Legend’s past. Who was he before he became Legend? How did he become Legend? And what really happened to Rosa? There were quite a few answers to those questions in this book but none of them came from Legend. And I feel like none of those answers were true unless confirmed by Legend himself.
This is the kind of story that deserves ten more sequels. And yes, I’m definitely going to shamelessly spend money on this series, seeing that it’s worth it.