Caraval by Stephanie Garber
**Please note this review contains spoilers**
Remember, it’s only a game…
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.
(Provided by Goodreads)
I liked it…I think. Well maybe I didn’t completely like it. No, no, no…I’m going to go with my first reaction, and that’s that I liked it! Yes, I liked it….mostly.
This is one of those books that has a really cool idea and starts off very strong, but gets weighed down by the end. The ending felt rushed, like it was so important to throw in this big twist of Scarlett’s horrible father returning to her life, her suitor in toe, that it just didn’t make sense. I thought this was a “secret island”? Apparently not, since he didn’t have too much trouble finding it. I felt the allure of the letter from the girl’s mother more intriguing then anything else. Not only does it set up the story to continue but made a rather weak ending easier to overlook.
Negativity aside, this was a cool idea. A game to win a wish, any wish you want. I got a distinct Alice In Wonderland feel from it. The island was bright and yet dark. All of the action and the hunt for the next clues happened at night. The rules and design of the game were interesting too. Players had to find the right answer to their riddles or finding the next answer would be impossible. Using what little time players had is crucial too.
Overall Garber created a distinctly unique atmosphere for readers, the promise of a wish for the winner and a game built on deceit and riddles. Players could easily waste valuable time chasing smoke and not everything was what it seemed. It was descriptive, at times overwhelming so, yet overall a clever read. I enjoyed Scarlett’s resourcefulness, I thought she was smart and followed her gut. She did her best not to let anything, or anyone, distract her from her goal.
My final rating is 3/5 stars.
For more information on Stephanie Garber and Caraval visit her website.