RATING :: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
AUTHOR :: STEPHANIE GARBER
GENRE :: YA FICTION
Remember, it is only a game.
After years of what seemed like unsuccessful writings, Scarlet finally receives an unexpected letter from Legend, the master of Caraval- a magical city created by Legend himself- with three tickets to attend Caraval. Scarlett has waited her entire life to attend and be a part of Caraval. There’s only one problem for Scarlett… a huge problem… she has been set by her father- a manipulative and abusive man who is hungry for power- to marry a Count, a man she has never met and has only known through letters.
Scarlett’s sister- Tella- however, is determined to break free from her father, and with the help of a mysterious, handsome stranger-Julian- they kidnap/drug Scarlett, leave their island on a boat, and head to Caraval…
…only for Tella to suddenly, and mysteriously, disappear, and for Scarlett to begin the search for her sister. She realizes that Tella has been kidnapped by Legend and is now part of the game; if Scarlett finds Tella, she will win the grand prize- one wish.
However, there are many obstacles Scarlett will have to face. She will have to risk safety, fear, and comfort for the sake of finding her sister. She will also have to uncover the secrets of Caraval, and the ones she’s held deep within her heart.
With the help of Julian, Scarlett embarks into a magical and dangerous journey that will change everything. Of course, she also needs to remember… it’s only a game.
I had gotten my hands on this book for a steal over a month before I actually read it. When I finally did pick it up to read, I began to ask myself why I never read it as soon as I bought it.
The book has just about everything- romance, the power of love between sisters, mystery, fantasy, and suspense.
I’ll start off with the characters:
I fell in love with Scarlett. She’s strong (even when she doesn’t realize it), she’s selfless, and she will do anything to keep her baby sister safe. While she’s been abused and manipulated by her father, her sole desire is to protect and provide for Tella, which is why she, in the beginning of the story, wants to marry a count… to get her and her sister away from their abusive father, and to be provided for. However, she soon realizes that living in fear of her father and marrying a man she knows nothing of is not what she truly desires. As she learns to stand her ground, fight back, and go after what she truly wants, she finds freedom and happiness.
I’m usually not keen about romantic relationships that are built on brokenness, lies, and unspeakable pain… but since this is a fantasy book, and the circumstances of these characters are far different from other characters in more real-life fiction books, I cut the book some slack.
That being shared, the romance that blossoms between Julian and Scarlet was simply beautiful. I thought for sure Julian would be out of the picture as soon as he arrived to Caraval, so I was genuinely surprised when I realized that he was also a main character, not a minor character. I never suspected that Scarlet and Julian would fall in love… mostly because I had originally thought that Julian was interested in Tella (and who wouldn’t after the way you find them in the beginning of the story). It also came as a bit of a shocker because Scarlett seemed to have her head so wrapped up in finding her sister that she didn’t seem to have time to invest in any kind of romance. I love how Scarlett decides to be with Julian out of love instead of interest like she did with the Count. And I love how Julian changes his attitude of indifference and lack of respect towards Scarlett into one of sacrifice and genuine concern and love. They challenge one another in more ways than one and lean on each other’s strengths when one of them is weak. This is probably my first favorite fiction couple of 2017.
Oh, and for the record, I was certain (before Scarlett thought it herself) that Julian was Legend himself. Like I said, this book was simply amazing.
I had a difficult time liking Tella, but I think that the first impressions I had about her were the reason why I truly enjoyed this book. Tella comes off as wild, foolish, without self control, driven by impulse rather than by proper logic, and selfish. She came across as the type of girl who didn’t care about anyone other than herself, and who would do anything and everything to get her happiness met before considering that of her older sister’s. When she was finally “rescued,” I thought for sure I was going to explode from rage… until I realized what her true motives were all along. If I had ever thought that Tella had not one ounce of thoughtfulness and care towards Scarlett, boy… was I in for a surprise. I had questioned whether or not Tella had the same devotion and love Scarlett had towards her, and the outcome proved that she did even though it had been hard to read her.
Of course, I still felt that having her sister kidnapped and forced to play Caraval to find her, going above and beyond to stage her own death, have Julian killed (even though she knew he’d be brought back to life anyway) was a bit too much. You can’t help but feel stuck in between “well, she was doing it to help her and Scarlett” and “well, couldn’t it have been done a different way without emotionally scarring Scarlett for life?” She’s a tricky one, but I think that’s what makes her brilliant.
The plot was a masterpiece.
The description of Caraval could almost be seen in my imagination. I loved how the author gave details of the magical city with a good number of words without taking the attention away from the story. Everything blended so well together; all thought out carefully. I had read so many comments about how Caraval’s first few chapters were lagging, but I thought the beginning was perfect; the story didn’t feel rushed, nor did it feel too slow. It took its time going from one scene into another; from one memory to another one. The character’s pasts/backgrounds didn’t overlap the main story. Instead, they filled in gaps that helped me understand the important twists that took place later in the book.
By the the end of the last two chapters, I was feeling close to crying. I was emotionally wrecked, in shock, and satisfied. This definitely has to be one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a long time.
I’m excited for the second part of this book, and will be keeping a close eye for it’s release date.