“…before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game. What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away.”

(Caraval, p. 77)

Without fully knowing what to expect, I picked up Caraval at my local library. Reading through its pages was certainly an adventure as I traversed the twists and turns of the plot, delving deeper into the intricacies of the story in an attempt to find out who is Legend and what does he want? I’ve read the book, now here’s my review.

The Summary

For years, Scarlett has dreamed of experiencing the enchanted world of Caraval. As a girl, Scarlett’s grandmother told her of the fantastical world that was created by a mysterious man called Legend. Although there are myths floating around the man’s existence, no one truly knows who he is. After years of wishing, she finally gets her chance to play the game. Yet, not everything at Caraval is what it seems. When her sister disappears and her only ally is a mysterious sailor, Scarlett must race against time to save her sister and herself before either of them is “swept too far away.”

The Plot

Caraval is nothing short of magical. This intriguing novel is unique and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The author wove an intricate story of love and deceit, beauty and terror. Scarlett and Donatella have lived the last several years of their lives in fear of their father, a cruel and unforgiving man, on the Isle of Trisda. After several years of sending letters to the mysterious Legend, her invitation to attend finally arrives. However, the fear of her father holds her back. But her fearless sister Donatella takes matters into her own hands, her rash actions throwing Scarlett into the enchanting world of Caraval.

Stephanie Garber  wastes little time with the reader on Trisda, choosing rather to propel the story along. Much of the story’s plot takes place in Caraval, giving the reader just the right amount of background and introduction before hurtling the readers forward in to the crux of the story. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. As the five nights of Caraval progress, Scarlett finds herself questioning her own actions and feelings. Is what’s happening real or is it a part of the game? Readers begin to confuse reality and fiction just as much as Scarlett. Before long, you find yourself questioning what tricks is the author playing on you. Who can be trusted and who is a farce?

It was this element of the story that gripped me as I read page after page.

It was also refreshing to read a story so powerfully blended with suspense and mystery. You as the reader walk into the opening scene blind. Slowly, as the story progresses, Scarlett learns more about those around her as well as Caraval itself. As she learns that the man Legend is not what he seems, the reader is right there alongside her learning as well. Readers are given very little to no foresight putting you in the same predicament as the protagonist–what is real?

Many years ago, a man named Legend created the magic of Caraval and has since made a legend of himself. But why has he finally invited Scarlett and her sister to his performance?

The Characters

Scarlett Dragna is the protagonist of this story and she plays the part well. While I could go on about her strong qualities, possibly my favorite aspect of her character was her flaws. Rather than being the typical female protagonist, Scarlett often times exhibited fear and uncertainty, allowing these emotions to hold her back. It was inspiring to reach the end of the book and see how she morphed into a more confident and courageous individual who would take the necessary risks to save those she loves.

The romance between Scarlett and Julian was beautifully done and I actually enjoyed it, which is not something I typically like. The romantic scenes never felt overbearing on the plot. While there are several romantic moments throughout the book, they seemed to support the story well rather than weigh it down. It was interesting to see the distrust and uncertainty in the relationship as Scarlett uncovered more clues about her missing sister and she struggled with knowing whether Julian was a friend or an enemy.

So that’s it. That’s my review of Caraval. Have you read it? If so, comment below what you thought about the book. If you haven’t read it, it’s an absolute must-read.

Until next time, happy reading!