Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: YA, Fiction
Publisher: Flatiron Books
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. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.
The Plot: It starts with Scarlett and Donatella Dragna, trapped in the conquered Isle of Trisda under the strict and rigorous reign of Governor Dragna, their father. In secret, Scarlett has been writing correspondence to Caraval Master, Legend in the hopes that he will bring his Caraval performers to the conquered Isle of Trisda. After many years of unanswered letters, Legend finally answers— inviting Scarlett and her sister to Caraval, along with a third extra nameless ticket— should they find a way out of the conquered Isles of Trisda.
The Setting: There’s two in the book. It begins in the conquered Isles of Trisda where we are told that in Scarlett’s mind “…the black sand of Del Ojos Beach would always be burnt pirate skeletons.” We are then transported to Legend’s private isle, Isla de los Sueños, not ruled by any of the five meridians.
The characters were a bit of a cliché but I still found myself enjoying the awkward yet endearing interactions between Scarlett and Julian, the uncouth sailor.
Donatella is the pretty, bubbly and mischievous younger sister but I couldn’t relate to her? I felt as if she acted unnatural or exaggerated.
Governor Marcello Dragna has some cringe moments but overall he played a decent villain.
Scarlett acts as the typical good girl yet she was all over the place. At times, I found myself seriously questioning her actions. I will say, however, her overprotective nature toward her younger sibling is admirable. Raised by a hostile and controlling father, Scarlett often takes on the motherly role, even going as far as to sacrifice her own happiness for the well-being of her sister.
Caraval Master, Legend is an enigma and remains one until the very end.
The Review/My Thoughts
The characters were a hit or miss for me but I still enjoyed the book, more than I expected.
The plot twists. Nothing is as it seems and at times, you begin to doubt the sanity of the main protagonist, the deeper she dives into the games.
Unexpected turns at every corner with some predictable outcomes that seemed to be purposely thrown in to mislead the reader.
The writing style not only vivid and descriptive but also colorful. The use of color sprinkled throughout the story made everything feel much more crisp and vivid. The visuals were easy to grasp and scents and color easily became meaningful identifications to the characters and settings of the story.
The use of color first appears in chapter two to describe the powerful emotions Scarlett is experiencing.
“Scarlett’s feelings came in colors even brighter than usual. The urgent red of burning coals. The eager green of new grass buds. The frenzied yellow of a flapping bird’s feathers.”
Another instance of color is to describe Governor Dragna in which we are told his perfume smelled of anise and lavender and the unpleasantness that comes with it is ‘rotted plums’ which without a doubt describes the sort of personality he has: rotten.
“Scarlett could still smell her father’s perfume. It smelled like the color of his gloves: anise and lavender and something akin to rotted plums.”
The use of color was fantastic and gave the book a touch of vibrancy and realism while still keeping the subtle bits of magic.
The Caraval games were twisted with hints of cruelty and a smidgen of darkness. They were not at all what I expected but I can’t say I was disappointed. On the contrary, the performers made the line between sanity and insanity blur.
The ending was satisfying enough with the usual suspects of cliché thrown in the mix.
Favorite Book Quotes
“Death was the color purple. Purple wallpaper and purple temperatures.”
“They say Legend wears a different face every game.”
Instead of using stars as a way to rank, I split ratings into: positive, mixed or negative. In the world of traditional stars, it would go like this:
Positive: 4.5/5 Mixed: 3/3.5 Negative: 1/2.5
I’m reading the entire series in preparation for the third and final book (which I was fortunate enough to be approved by Netgalley)
Have you read the Caraval series? What were your thoughts on it?