Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31, 2017
Pages: 407
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

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 was a twisty-turny book. It kept me on the edge of my seat, never knowing who to trust or what to believe. Honestly, I finished it yesterday and I’m STILL not sure what to make of what happened!! This book reminded me of a combination of Wintersong (because of the sisters) and Fever by Lauren DeStefano (because of the “carnival” and the dark and gritty plot).

The world of Caraval was absolutely gorgeous and breath-taking – the island it takes place on, Isla de los sueños (the island of dreams) is up there with Wonderland and Oz, in my opinion. It’s magical and fantastical and I’d love to go there and experience it for myself.

As I mentioned, the sisters in this – Scarlett and Tella – reminded me very much of Liesl and Kath from Wintersong, respectively. Both Scarlet and Liesl are headstrong and overprotective. Each ends up on a bizarre adventure in an attempt to save their sister. Both Tella and Kath are carefree and a bit immature. They don’t think about the consequences of their actions. The one big difference? There’s more to Tella than meets the eye.

As for the other characters… Julian is cocky, sarcastic and a complete mystery. I was constantly shuffling back and forth, wondering if I could trust him or not. And even after finishing the book, there’s still something about him that’s nagging at me. I really wanted to like Dante. He was so kind in the beginning, but then certain things that happened later on had me rethinking everything he said and did. I think I liked Aiko, but I can’t be sure because we didn’t really get to know her very well. I really hope we learn more about her in the sequel because I think there’s more to her than we know. I REALLY wanted to like Count Nicholas d’Arcy. His letters had me hopeful, but then.. Sigh. Basically, I didn’t trust ANYONE at all and I’m dying for book two because I can’t wait to see where their stories all go next. Finally, obviously, I HATED their father with a passion.

The only negative thing I really have to say is this book started off REALLY slow. Like.. For me, it honestly didn’t pick up until about page 221. But once it DID pick up, it didn’t slow down again until the very last page – and then I was devastated that it was the last page and now I CANNOT wait for book two!!! That cliffhanger was INSANE!!!

Overall, if you can push through the first half and stick with it, the second half is AMAZING and mind-blowing. You won’t know who to trust, you won’t know what to believe – and you won’t want it to end.