I feel like every corner of the book community has been anticipating the release of Caraval by Stephanie Garber for months and on January 31st we were finally able to get our hands on this beauty of a book! I did mention Caraval in my January Releases post too (yes, the hype got me too)!
Caraval tells the story of Scarlett and Donatella (who is referred to as Tella most of the time), sisters who live under the strict and abusive rule of their father, Governor Dragna on the island Trisda. The sisters have never been able to leave Trisda, but Scarlett has been dreaming about visiting Caraval – an annual performance where the audience participates in the show, for years now. Scarlett, now engaged to a man she has never met, has been writing to Legend (the Master of Caraval) for six years by the time she and Tella are finally invited to the show.
Scarlett and Tella are joined by Julian, a sailor who helps them get to Caraval. Upon their arrival at Caraval, Tella is kidnapped and Scarlett discovers this years mission: find Tella first and be granted a wish by Legend.
Every year, before the performance begins the participants are reminded that Caraval is just a game and not to get swept up in it.
Before we get into the review of Caraval, can we please talk about the design of this book first? The cover is absolutely gorgeous. The colors really pop and the reflective star behind the title is so pretty and great in photographs (you won’t believe how many pictures I have taken of this book!). Once you remove the dust jacket, you get this beautiful and reflective tear drop on the front cover and title on the spine. But the beauty doesn’t stop there! No! Once we actually turn to the pages of the book, we’ve got stunning divider pages and each chapter has decorative elements too. You gotta love that attention to detail!
Let’s talk writing for a bit! Stephanie Garber writes very descriptively which allows the reader to really dive into the world and picture it the way Garber intended you to see it. We start chapter two with
Scarlett’s feelings came in colors even brighter than usual. The urgent red of burning coals. The eager green of new grass buds.
and it continues this way for the entirety of the book. Garber tells her story in colors and smells and you can’t help yourself but to picture all of these things. When I first heard about how descriptive her writing style was, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it – I am usually not too big of a fan of that writing style. But I loved it in this book!
The writing was also one of the reasons why I just couldn’t put this book down at some point. Things were happening so fast, I kept turning page after page, chapter after chapter until I got to that last page! The other aspect was the great story! The closer we got to the final night of Caraval the more secrets were uncovered while more questions seemed to pop up simultaneously. I can’t tell you how often I thought I had things all figured out, just to then stop mid sentence to update my Goodreads, because I was wrong or a new thought popped into my head. It was fantastic! That’s another aspect I truly loved about this story: it kept you guessing!
You kept asking yourself if you were being swept away too far – the very thing you’ve been warned about twice! Were you taking everything you read at face value? Should you be questioning things more? The answer is probably yes. But it’s all part of the experience of Caraval!
We’ve covered the great writing and story, now let’s talk characters! Like Scarlett, I am an older sister too (the oldest, actually) so I was able to relate to what Scarlett was feeling and going through quite well. I understood her need to protect Tella at all costs, to make sure no harm would come to her and be willing to do anything for Tella. And it was beautiful to see that in Scarlett, but I also loved the fact that Scarlett started to do things for herself and to think of herself as the story progressed.
The love the sisters have for each other is probably one of the most beautiful things in this story. It’s this love that really motivates Scarlett and Tella in their actions and decisions – I was amazed at how far they were willing to go for each other.
Another character who plays a significant role in Caraval is Julian, the sailor who appeared on Trisda just a month before the sisters are invited to Caraval. He offers to take the sisters to Caraval on his boat and then joins Scarlett for her search of Tella. Stephanie Garber did such a fantastic job writing Julian – he ended up being the one aspect about Caraval that I kept second guessing and wondering about the entire time I was reading. I thought I had him figured out so, so many times! Discovering that Scarlett isn’t the only player driven by their love was so great! It truly shows you how far a person is willing to go!
Legend has this mysterious feel about him through the entirety of Caraval. We are given little pieces of back story here and there, but there is still so much more to his character! The last couple of chapters of Caraval give us a different side to Legend that I am so excited for Stephanie Garber to explore and tell us more about!
The ending is also something I really enjoyed about Caraval. While the story gets wrapped up nicely, we are given new information which sets up the sequel and has me really angry that I have to wait months and months until I get to jump back into this world! That’s why you should never read a debut novel right after it’s released – especially if it’s a series/trilogy. The waiting after you finish is going to kill you.
I ended up giving this book 4,5 stars on Goodreads and you can read my thoughts while reading here too (my thoughts might spoil things for you, please be aware of that!)! If you’ve read this book, what did you think about it? Were you swept away into the world of Caraval like I was? If you haven’t read the book yet, what are you waiting for?