Format: Hardcover, 407 pages
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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 beloved 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.
Caraval is the first installment in author Stephanie Garber's Caraval series. Scarlett Dragna lives on the Isle of Trisda with her sister Donatella, and her overbearing, and overprotective father who won't let the sisters sneeze without knowing about it. Scarlett is overly protective of Tella to the point of putting herself in the line of fire. Her father has also committed Scarlett to be married to a count she's never seen, or heard of, and is expected to marry within weeks.
For years, Scarlett has written to the mysterious owner of Caraval, Legend. Ever since her own mother disappeared without a trace, she's been trying to gain the attention of Legend. This year, she receives (3) invitations to join the fun. Once she arrives at Caraval, things change. Tella goes missing, and Scarlett is forced to choose to either watch the game, or participate in it. There are even rules you must follow, including a leap of faith, and losing something valuable. This year, there is something different about the contest.
This year Scarlett will go up against other contestants for the right to win a wish. All they have to do is find Tella in order to win the game. Caraval is a treacherous game where one can lose themselves completely in the game. You can also lose days if you are not careful in what you do. You can tell yourself that it is only a game, but when your own sister is the ultimate prize for anyone taking part in the game, then your odds of succeeding are that much worse. Then there are the unknowns, Dante and Julian.
Julian is a mysterious sailor who takes Scarlett & Tella to Caraval. What is Julian's real purpose in this entire scenario? Can he be trusted, or is he just another game piece that stands in the way of Scarlett getting her sister back? And, what will Scarlett lose when all is said and done? Dante on the other hand is one that probably was just a throw in. Yes, he does have some uses, or in the end, it is Scarlett that has to figure things out for herself without anyone else's help.
I would have loved to have had more world building. I do know that the story takes place during year 57 of the Elantine Dynasty, but who are they Elantine's, and why should we care? Another question I have is why wasn't Tella given more storyline? After all, she apparently has done something to gain the attention of Legend, and put Scarlett in a difficult position. He apparently knows things that Tella wants to know. Will readers find this information out in the next installment? Will the next installment be from Tella's point of view, or will we once again return to Scarlett's?
Scarlett & Tella could not be more different. Scarlett is more responsible, and selfless, whereas Tella throws caution to the wind and doesn't care that she gets in trouble or puts her own sisters life on the line. Scarlett isn't necessarily a badass. She struggles throughout to keep her moral compass focused. She doesn't do anything heroic to save her sister. But, she does remain true to her own self, and not fall into the darkness that Legend exists in. I'll also say that Julian should have had more of a part in this story. His background and his participation is almost as important as Scarlett's.
I liked the curiosity behind Scarlett's ability to see emotions as colors. This phenomena is called synesthesia, and what's interesting is that I had just finished another book where the lead character has the same issues. I also loved Scarlett's interchangeable dress. I would love to have a dress that changes in different situations. This book could have been a standalone, and I would have been fine. But, after reading the prologue, it is apparent that there will be one more book in the series, at lease.
PS - ICYMI, this book has been optioned to 20th Century Fox, and will apparently become a movie sometime in the future. The producers of Divergent are behind the movie which was formerly titled Hearts Made of Black.