Scarlett has spent seven years writing to Legend, the mastermind behind the fantastical, magical traveling game that is Caraval. In her letters, she has begged him to visit her tiny island, to bring her some form of escape from the horrors that she and her sister live in. Just as she gives up hope, a mysterious trio of tickets show up, with an invitation – and a young sailor who is willing to risk his own safety by taking Scarlett and her sister to Caraval. This year’s reward is one wish for the lucky soul who can claim it. Everything goes awry when the sisters are separated, and Scarlett begins to doubt what she’s been told.
It’s all just a game… isn’t it?
I found that I struggled slightly with a few of the characters; namely, Scarlett herself frustrated me to no end in the first half of the book, simply due to her cautious mannerisms, that while not altogether unrealistic, felt like a constant hindrance for the reader’s progression through the world of Caraval. I also found myself bothered more than once by her willingness to overlook major flaws in her sister and in Julian. For someone who has taught herself to be so cautious and untrustworthy, I found that she was far too willing to turn a blind eye to a few issues that I personally would not have been able to ignore or to forgive so effortlessly.
That said, Scarlett did become moderately more enjoyable as I got into the second half of the book, as did Julian, and there were a few side characters who I liked and really wanted more development from (like Aiko and Dante). I’ve heard that there is a sequel in the works, and I am desperately hoping we get to spend more time with some of these intriguing side characters in the future!
On a positive note, I adored the world of Caraval. I found myself wanting to visit it, regardless of danger, just because of how mystical and fantastic Stephanie Garber made it seem! Nothing ever felt as though it was what it seemed on the surface, which kept me turning page after page and racing to the end. The plot twists weren’t mind-blowing, but they weren’t predictable, either, and kept me guessing. The biggest question that I found myself dying to know the answer to was, “Who is Legend?!” and while I didn’t foresee the answer to the question, I definitely enjoyed the turn that Garber took with it.
As far as the writing itself went, there was a trope or two that I could have done without; it held some serious insta-romance, which I am not overly fond of, and didn’t expect at all from the synopsis or from the first few chapters. Beyond that, I didn’t find much humor to be had, which obviously isn’t a necessity, but I think a lot of my recent reads have found ways to mix it in, so I found myself missing it in Caraval. The book mostly made up for these flaws, though, with its beautiful descriptions and its ever-changing settings.
All in all, this was a really enjoyable read that I am so pleased to have picked up, and I will definitely be pre-ordering the sequel when it becomes available. I would recommend Caraval to anyone who is looking for a book with a little action, a little sisterly bonding, light and cute romance, and most of all, a lot of magic.