Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Description from Goodreads: Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world...
Welcome, welcome to CARAVAL-- Stephanie Garber's sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.
Scarlett 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 far away, 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. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.
Lemme tell you something before we get started here.
I LOVE a good fantasy. Strangely enough, though everybody had their own fantasies, good ones are hard to come by. When you find them, though, they blow up. They're the next big thing. And as this started happening with CARAVAL, I grabbed it off the shelf. I'd wanted to read it for a long time, but I hadn't had a chance to get to a nice, longer book in a while. Now, I did.
People. My ARC had 401 pages, and I read it in less than a day.
LESS. THAN. A. DAY.
I stayed up until like 2:30 for this bad boy, and I have no regerts (Intentional typo. If you haven't seen that Milky Way commercial, click below my sign-off).
So I start the book. I get about, eh, 60 pages in, and I've already decided that this book is weird.
W E I R D.
Mom asked how it was so far, and I literally told her, "It's weird. But, in a good way?"
I had no idea what was in store for me.
I read a but more, and found myself on page 103, texting my brother to tell him I was completely in love with this character, Julian.
BUT HOLD UP. LEMME TELL YOU BOUT JULIAN.
He's horrible. Egotistical, arrogant, slick as oil.
So, naturally, I love him.
So once I decide I love this character, we start down the path of CARAVAL, learning how it works and trying to find Tella.
Amongst this, I decide three things: Julian is a snake (luvs), Tella is selfish, and Scarlett is much like me.
As we're going along this journey, I can't help but marvel at how well Stephanie Garber had crafted this world. Everything was so intricate and perfect and delicate. The strings were tied in so many places that you could snip one in half and still have enough attached to hold the story together. The descriptions were specific, but there wasn't so many of them that I found myself wanting to skip paragraphs, which often happens for me in fantasies.
That could have been because I had other things tempting me to skip paragraphs. Snakes and such. But that's not the point.
And then I'm reading along and my world gets totally flipped. PLOT TWIST NUMBER ONE, AT YOUR SERVICE.
I start questioning everything I thought about everything I knew and I'm just sitting there with my mind spinning. Surely not. But... surely so.
And those are my favorite moments in a book (besides the nice snakes). When I think I know what's going on, but then suddenly, I don't. Suddenly, something I read made me question EVERYTHING. It's one of the most magical experiences a book can give you, and it was so incredibly fitting for CARVAL, because... well, go back up and read that description for me, will you?
You back? Good.
The entire point of the game of Caraval is that it's just that-- a game. No matter what happens in the game, it will always remain a game.
I mean. Unless, of course, it wasn't just a game.
You're not supposed to get swept up in Caraval. You aren't supposed to let it sweep you into madness. It was just a game.
Or was it?
THE WHOLE TIME I'M READING THIS BOOK, I'M STARTING TO QUESTION EVERYTHING. IS THIS REAL? IS THIS NOT REAL? IS ANYTHING REAL?
And the plot twists. You guys. I counted at least five that knocked me on my butt. I don't think I've ever been so ingrained in a book that I've had plot twists get me like this. They come out of the shadows and just shove you into somewhere you never expected to be. And then, they leave you to figure out what happened.
As I read, my mom kept looking up at me because I'd be laughing or shrieking at a twist, at my own shock of being deceived, and it had been ages since I'd felt stricken enough to react to it out loud.
And then we get to the ending, and I'm whirling. I'm trying to piece things together as I read, and I'm lost, and then suddenly, everything is cleared.
The book ends. But in the back of my head, I remembered Caraval. It was just a game, it wasn't real.
Or was it?
I cannot say enough about this book. If you enjoy fantasy, you NEED to get your hands on this. I haven't found a story like this in a long time, and it deserves to be told and shared with as many people as it possibly can be. Four point five stars, and the five is only because of something I can't share with you without spoiling literally everything. But I loved it. And I bet you will, too.