Personal Thoughts: It’s been so long since I’ve written a book review since I’ve been giving all of my recaps on my BookTube channel at the end of the month but I really wanted to get back into them and it seemed perfect to do so with Caraval by Stephanie Garber. Caraval is without a doubt, a new favorite of mine. I love it so much that I preordered an additional copy once I was less than five chapters in. I’ve been talking about this book on my channel for quite some time- it was my most anticipated read from BEA but I somehow put it off until recently and I’m so happy that I did! While I would’ve loved to welcome this story in my heart earlier than I did, it was quite nice to read it with all of the lights, scents and general coziness that the magic of Christmastime provided as a backdrop.
Plot Summary: Caraval is the the story of Scarlet and her sister Tella who live on a conquered island with an abusive father. Having heard tales of the magic of Caraval, a traveling immersive performance that occurs annually, from their Grandmother, the girls both write to Legend, the mastermind behind the game. After years of unanswered letters, Scarlett finally receives a response along with three tickets to this year’s game- one for Scarlett, one for Tella and one for Scarlett’s fiance. When Scarlett arrives on the island, she discovers that this year’s game hits very close to home as her sister Tella has been kidnapped and the object of the game is to find her before the other participants she’s competing with. Participants are reminded two times before the games begin that everything occurring in Caraval is just a game and to not get swept away no matter how real things feel. But really, is it?
Critique: Caraval is one of the most sensory reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of diving into. I’m basically obsessed with the descriptive language Stephanie Garber used and I’m still amazed that she was able to so perfectly capture and relay the experience of Caraval to the reader. There was not a single drop of magic lost in translation. Each of our three main characters (Scarlett, Julian and Tella) were so well developed that they felt like actual people. The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective and the amount of character growth she underwent throughout the game is overwhelming. I love reading about characters who live within a set of boundaries, often self inflicted, who then break out and challenge their norms and Scarlett fit this description to a T. Despite Tella being kidnapped and therefore absent from the majority of the novel, I still had no trouble knowing her character. She is just as developed as her sister who graces every page. And then there’s Julian, to trust him or not to trust him? Either side you fall on, you will inevitably fall victim to his charm. As for side characters, everyone is important and I especially love the air of mystery surrounding Legend. I became so intrigued with the story and so addicted to Scarlett solving the cryptic clues and finding her sister that I can honestly say I let Caraval sweep me away (I even had to text Alexa at the climax of the story since she had finished earlier for moral support because I was laying in bed screaming WHAT IS REAL LIFE?!?!). Another incredible selling point of Caraval is that despite it being labeled as the first book in a series (THANK GOD BECAUSE I NEED MORE) the story wraps up very nicely. There’s no cliffhanger ending that leaves you dying for answers BUT there is an intriguing piece of information that you’ll be eager to explore.
Do I Recommend?: A THOUSAND TIMES YES.