Caraval is the debut novel from Stephanie Garber and it is a book I had heard a lot about that can be considered as one of the most anticipated YA books for 2017. Published on 31st January I was thrilled to receive a copy ahead of this date as it was the chosen book in January’s Fairy Loot box. And with its beautiful design and intriguing premise I couldn’t wait to read it!
‘It took seven years to get the letter right.’
The novel begins with various letters written by Scarlett Dragna, who lives on the island of Trisda with her younger sister, Tella. The sisters have never left the island, and their life there is not easy. A difficult relationship with their father leads them to crave life away from the island, to find an escape and to be free. And for many years the sisters have been fascinated by the wonder of Caraval, a weeklong event which takes place once a year- an elaborate performance in which the audience become the participants. The event promises adventure and magic, with the winner receiving a highly sought after prize. For years Scarlett writes to the mysterious Caraval Master Legend, the mastermind behind Caraval, in the hope that she and Tella can meet the performers. After seven years of writing, the Caraval Master invites Scarlett to join him, providing tickets for the girls and a companion. But as the sisters begin their journey, nothing can prepare them for the mysteries and challenges that lie ahead of them. From the very first page I was gripped. I loved the idea of Caraval and along with Scarlett and Tella I was intrigued and fascinated by Caraval’s performers and the mastermind who controls them.
‘Some would probably call him a villain. Others would say his magic makes him closer to a god.’
I really enjoyed the descriptions of Caraval and the magical world that Stephanie Garber has created. There were lots of little details that I liked which helped to set the scene and I particularly loved the colour changing dresses, the haberdashery shaped like a hat and the quirky shop signs. All these details and the beautiful writing combined to create this mysterious setting perfectly. But what I loved most about this book was the way that fantasy and reality collide, and how the characters adapt and react to their situation, when no-one is quite sure what their situation is. It is said that Caraval is just a performance, that it is just a game, yet there are warnings not to get too swept up in the excitement and the adventure. And as Scarlett finds herself separated from her sister, she has to work out what is real from what is not real. All this is exacerbated by a few twists and turns along the way, and lots of unanswered questions. Who is the Master Legend? Who can be trusted? And is this really just a game? I also grew fond of the characters and loved the bond between Scarlett and Tella who have been through so much together. It was great to see these girls develop over the course of the novel, and discover things about themselves they never knew.
‘So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.’
I loved Caraval and devoured it within a day. It is a surprising, magical story of two sisters and their journey of adventure. I was hooked to the very end and its brilliant conclusion hints at even more secrets and intrigue from the next book in the series. I am very much looking forward to reading more about Caraval!