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.


My review:


“Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or performance. It's the closest you'll ever find yourself magic in this world.” 
― Stephanie Garber

Released in January 2017, I had not heard of Caraval and its magic until a few months ago when I had too much time at hand to watch booktube reviews. By an off chance this hyped YA book fell into my lap a few days ago and here I went snooping into the first few pages liking it and thinking, how could you not? 

“Welcome, welcome to Caraval! The grandest show on land or by sea. Inside you’ll experience more wonders than most people see in a lifetime. You can sip magic from a cup and buy dreams in a bottle. But before you fully enter into our world, you must remember it’s all a game.” 
― Stephanie Garber

This debut novel made me wish there would have been such books introduced to me back when I was at the targeted audience age. It would have been so much fun to fangirl over its romance, dream of the magical dresses and be swept away by the beautiful surroundings. 

BUT, keep in mind, in this book:

“No one is truly honest,” Nigel answered. “Even if we don't lie to others, we often lie to ourselves. And the word good means different things to different people.” 
― Stephanie Garber

“What happens beyond this gate may frighten or excite you, but don’t let any of it trick you. We will try to convince you it’s real, but all of it is a performance. A world built of make-believe. So while we want you to get swept away, be careful of being swept too far away. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won’t wake up.”
― Stephanie Garber

And it was a magical ride. Scarlett and her sister Tella travel to a mysterious island participate in the Caraval games. Their invitation by "Legend" sets them up as preferred guest status, but that does not make it much easier. Following hints and clues, nothing seems to be as it is or should be. In order to play, you have to leave everything behind and make choices that could risk your life if necessary. 

“Every person has the power to change their fate if they are brave enough to fight for what they desire more than anything.” 
― Stephanie Garber

Needless to say, the world of caraval is truly magical and well thought out. The premise and idea has left me captivated and at awe. There are so many twists and turns that were unexpected. Stephanie Garber used great imagination to move you along the games and free the characters of their predicaments. Never were you really sure if this was it. Of course the length of the book gives away that this cannot be and you just have to keep reading. 

The end is twisted as well, so no peeking at the last pages first. 

For what it is I loved the novel. As an adult, I thought the plot was sometimes a little predictable. None the less, it was sweet to put yourself back at that tender age of first kisses and first love. I can see why so many enjoy the book and I will definitely read the next one. Staying open minded about different genres does not always work for me, but this one is a little gem in YA.