by Stephanie Garber
Published by Hodder & Staughton, Hachette Australia on 31st January 2017
Format: E-Book, E-ARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Boffins, Dymocks, Booktopia
Two sisters bound by love and a father they fear escape their tiny, secluded island for the wondrous performance of Caraval, where the audience plays along in a mysterious and magical game of determining what's real and what's fantasy. And where only one sister might be brave enough to win the ultimate prize of 'an impossible wish'...
Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.
Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for lonely Scarlett, it represents freedom, an escape from her abusive father and from her own dark past.
Still, Scarlett is too scared of her father to leave Trisda. Until she is kidnapped by her wild younger sister Donatella and a dangerous yet oh-so-seductive sailor named Julian and taken to the mystical Isla de los Suenos, the site of this year's Caraval. When they arrive, her sister immediately disappears. Since protecting Tella is all she knows, Scarlett is forced to join forces with Julian and find her before the evil Master of Caraval does...
You’ll hear a lot of pretty words used to describe Caraval – spellbounding, mystical, magical, breathtaking, atmospheric – pretty much all are accurate and true. Caraval is one of those stories that is so visually stunning, that for a debut author, Garber has cemented herself as an author whose words truly leap off the page.
So what’s all the fuss about? What we have is our heroine, Scarlett, who haslonged to participate in Caraval, the legendary magical circus-come-scavenger hunt. When she is gifted three tickets – one for her, one for her sister Tella, and one for the fiancee she’s never met. But when Tella goes missing on their arrival and Scarlett is left with Julian, the enigmatic sailor who whisked them to the island, Scarlett must play the game – and win – in order to get her sister back, and alive.
Caraval is full of plot twists, which is part of what makes the book so delectable. If you think you’re getting the stock standard YA fantasy, then you’re wrong. I was so caught up in ‘playing the game’ with Scarlett and trying to second guess every next step and play that I was completely swept up in the book, and couldn’t put it down. Was it real or not real? Only a game or not? I’ll leave you in suspense and make you go read the book.
The relationship between Tella and Scarlett was amazing, and sadly, I just wanted more and more. As you can tell, Tella isn’t present for a lot of the book, popping every now and again but there was a such a strong sense of love and devotion between the two. They were two incredibly different characters, and at times I felt that there could have been more depth to both. At times I felt Scarlett to be quite a judgemental character, but I was impressed at her determination in never giving up in finding Tella. And a character with synesthesia? I’d never heard of that before now, and at first it was a little confusing, but once I begun to understand Scarlett, it made a great aspect of the novel. Speaking of relationships – I can’t not mention Julian, who was probably my favourite character. I loved the banter between him and Scarlett, and the way he pushed her to be a better person.
There were a few minor niggles that made Caraval a four star instead of five star read, and I hope that they’ll be explored more in coming books (oh please tell me there’s more books!). Firstly is the world building – you get a brief sense of the world that Scarlett lives in, a conglomerate of islands ruled by governors, but you don’t get much beyond that. And I always find fantasy worlds so fascinating, so this left me a little disappointed. I wanted to know more about the culture, the history – from my sense, I got a very Italian vibe, especially with the names and costumes. Look at me, always wanting more!
So if you are wanting a book that is visually rich as it is enchanting, then look no further than Caraval. And if you don’t do it for the story, those covers, am I right?!
A huge big thanks to Hachette Australia who provided me a copy in exchange for review. Caraval is out now in all major bookstores and retailers.