Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her 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 faraway, 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. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.
After quickly reading the book’s description I immediately picked it up. I mean all the mysteriousness of Caraval, how it appears once a year and the audience can actually choose to participate, it all sound like magic to me, something I would definitely get hooked on. And I certainly did. Could not put this down and actually devoured it in a couple of days.
I really and truly loved this world. The way that magic is so deeply rooted in it that it actually makes you question what’s real and what’s just someone’s imagination. Especially because Scarlett participates in the whole thing we get dragged along this crazy and whimsical ride with new puzzles arising just as one gets solved. It feels like we get to play along with the characters.
I loved that the time and place aren’t exactly obvious. You actually get as lost as the characters over how much time they spent on something and keep trying to understand what’s really going on and what’s really the goal of this game. I truly got immersed.
And I loved the game! I believed everything that was going on so when there were new twists I would be so shocked and really wouldn’t see them coming. It was also wild in the sense that I would be seeing all of this through Scarlett’s eyes and it would get scary with how people acted and dealt with this game, what they would do to find the clues and how they would do exactly what they were warned against: they would forget it was a game and would get completely lost in the magic of everything.
The atmosphere was perfect. Completely immersive. The visuals were incredible, the clothing, the places, the magic… *chef’s kiss*.
Garber does however have a bit of a tendency to be very repetitive. She restates information or emotions we have heard time and time again, and it can get annoying.
As for the characters, I really quite enjoyed Scarlett and Julian, I enjoyed the dynamics between them. I didn’t really like Scarlett’s sister Tella though. Maybe in the following books I’ll get to better understand her point of view but for this one she actually kind of annoyed me. But at the same time she added a good contrast to Scarlett, since they are both very different and have very different ways of dealing and reacting to situations they have been through together.
Overall it was quite an enjoyable read for me, it managed to get immersed in this world and its story.