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.
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.
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.