If you liked The Night Circus, try Stephanie Garber’s Caraval

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If you liked The Night Circus, try Stephanie Garber’s Caraval

I love my tattered copy of The Night Circus, but I’m desperately tired of waiting for the author’s next stroke of genius.  I am always delighted when I find a book that evokes some of that magical enchantment, and Caraval did that for me.  I gave it four stars – it has its weaknesses, but the feels outweighed them.


Goodreads Summary

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 . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

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. 

My Thoughts

Caraval is magical and engaging, and a little brutal at times.  There is definitely some danger and horror mixed into the enchanting world of of this tale.  It is this contrast – feverbright setting and a lingering, light dread – that really feels spot on.  Think Wonderland, with its topsy-turvy setting and characters, meets THAT nightmare, the one built on your deepest desires and darkest fears.  I wasn’t scared, but I certainly feared something terrible was around every corner.  I do have to say some of the backstory and the ultimate “why” are threadbare and patchy, but I enjoyed it anyway.  While I couldn’t help thinking of The Night Circus while I read, I also couldn’t help thinking it was so much more YA friendly.  I know many of my students will enjoy this dark and sumptuous tale, so it’s going on my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations appropriate for grades 9+. 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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