Caraval By Stephanie Garber: Shrouded In Mystery

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When you think of the word Caraval, what comes to mind? Is it alluring? Fantastical? I think spellbinding and dazzling.

A Piece of Feedback for Caraval

“The Hunger Games meets The Night Circus in this tale of two sisters enmeshed in a deadly game.”

-Entertainment Weekly

This caught my eye. The Hunger Games and The Night Circus are two of my favorite books of all time. Needless to say, I had high expectations going in. Also, there was a map which is something you don’t see very often anymore. I don’t know many fiction books that contain maps anymore. Although I haven’t picked up a fictional book in a hot minute, so that could be it too.

How is it like Hunger Games?

At its core, this book is about two sisters. Scarlett is the point of view character who we follow throughout the series. Much like Katniss Everdeen, Scarlett cares intensely and immensely for her sister, Donatella (Tella).

What is Caraval about?

Ever since they were young, their grandmother would tell them enthralling stories of a man called Legend and his magical caraval. However, their abusive, controlling father would never allow them to go see the spectacle. So, Scarlett wrote to Legend begging him to come to their small island. Years passed, with no response. The sisters started to lose hope. Scarlett is engaged. She doesn’t know his name, only of the sweet nothings he writes to her about.

In a desperate, last-ditch effort she writes one last letter to Legend. At last, she gets a response. A response and three tickets. One for Tella, herself, and her fiancee. They are to come to an island two days away from their own before x day and x time or they cannot watch or participate in the game Legend has set up. This may be a good time to mention that they make it to Caraval but not with the fiancee but with Julian, a sailor.

One small problem, Tella is nowhere to be found.

Scarlett is trapped in a game to find Tella before the dawn of the fifth day. Scarlett teams up with Julian in search of her sister. Julian warns her no one in Caraval is what it seems. The performers warn her that everything she sees isn’t real but can she believe them? You’ll have to read to find out.

What I liked about Caraval:

  • Scarlett is not a brave character. She is traumatized from the get-go and it’s refreshing. Maybe it’s just me but it seems that in a lot of fiction the main character starts off ‘perfect’ or ‘innocent’ and then the reader experiences a progression of brokeness. This book does not contain that kind of progression.
  • Julian as a whole is a fascinating character. The reader can’t really tell when he’s telling the truth. I can’t wait to read the next book to see where this one leaves off in terms of him.
  • Tella is a great twist on the sacrificial lamb character. Tella showcases her own strengths and I think it’s due to the different kinds of progression I mention.
  • Legend. Even by the end of the book, he is a complete mystery and I want to know more.
  • I mention the author included a map in the front of Caraval but honestly, it’s really cool. I liked to flip back to it to imagine going to some of the places marked.
  • The chapters have cool embellishments on the sides. It’s a little thing but I love the design, it adds to the grandeur of the story Caraval is trying to convey. There are also handwritten letters in the book and they are formatted like an actual letter, almost like they photocopied a letter into the book. I think it’s cool.
  • In the back of the book, Ms. Garber included false starts–that is–her rough drafts of the first chapter of the book and I think it’s cool to read the progression.
  • I’ve never seen a playlist included with a book before. In the back of the book, Ms. Garber included songs for each of the chapters of the book. Small confession, I built a playlist of the songs and listened to them while writing this and it’s really good.
  • Feelings are heavily associated with colors in Caraval and I think that’s cool. When Scarlett described a feeling with a color I could picture it clearly. I also love any book that uses color themes too.

Final Thoughts:

Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing I don’t like about the book. The beginning is a little slow but it’s necessary to build the characters. So no complaints. I give Caraval a 10/10. Thank you for reading my take on “Caraval”, I appreciate it. Comment below your favorite book. If you like my content, consider subscribing to my mailing list and if you want a review on something similar, click here 

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