Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
When I bought this book for Holly’s Little Book Review’s #CaravalBuddyRead17 on Instagram, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Finally, I started the book and DID NOT WANT TO SET IT DOWN! The book’s warning of “beware of getting swept too far away” quickly got forgotten in this book lover’s mind. Caraval’s dark and magical atmosphere drew me in, and I found myself feeling like a spectator of the show.
Scarlett, the main character, reacted to everything exactly like how I would have reacted. I related way too well to her character, so everything she did felt reasonable. When I figured out (within the first few pages) that Julian and Scarlett were going to be romantically involved somehow (whether as an appearance or in actuality) I automatically fell in love with him. Scarlett’s choices felt realistic even in the fantasy magic within Caraval’s world which can sometimes be a difficult task to tackle as a writer.
Julian, the main love interest fella, beautifully encompassed his role as the sarcastic character. Every book that has a sarcastic character, especially one as handsome as Julian, automatically gets at least 3 stars on Goodreads from me. (It got 5 stars because… hello!) I could not stop laughing at something Julian said or did despite the constant lies and mystery surrounding him. I did not want to trust him, but I did anyways. He just has that presence in the book. Normally I would get annoyed with the back-and-forth in a relationship, but I trusted Julian. That’s good writing, right there.
Legend’s character is briefly interacted with in the book. He is more talked about than actually in the book, which annoyed me. I went into the book thinking he might be the other half of a love triangle, but he isn’t. Not having a love triangle in a book is relaxing. I understand, after the ending, why the characters did not interact with him due to the sequel probably revealing Legend’s character. Speaking of secretive things….
Caraval’s magic revolves around secrets and twists. I thought the book would go one way and then BAM! it goes a completely different way. The only thing I predicted correctly was the main love relationship between Julian and Scarlett (which happens pretty early on so it’s not a spoiler). Nothing that happens in the relationship I saw coming, however, which kept me reading and intrigued. The atmosphere of the storytelling, with a lot of focus on colors, drew me in and would not let me go. Even though the story only happens over a week’s time, everything felt developed and resolved by the end.
Except for one thing… FREAKING LEGEND AT THE PARTY! I was crying when Julian came up to Scarlett at the party. And then the story focused on Tella’s POV and… I realized Caraval was not a stand-alone book. I got freaking dragged into another series. Or at least a duology. This is not what I needed in my life. But also… YES! Because more Legend and Julian and Scarlett and beauty is necessary.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Stephanie Garber on a FANTASTIC debut book which has captivated so many readers. Can’t wait for more!
Have you read Caraval? What did you think of the magical world? Have you checked out my aesthetic I made for Caraval yet? Let me know in the comments below!
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~